Beef cattle

Yuri Montanholi is a North Dakota State University Extension beef cattle specialist.

Yuri Montanholi, a native of Brazil with dual Canadian citizenship, was hired in 2019 to be the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension beef cattle specialist.

Yuri traveled to NDSU Hettinger Research Extension Center (HREC) to introduce himself to southwestern producers, and meet with Janna Block, NDSU HREC area Extension specialist in livestock systems.

“I was raised on both of my grandparents’ farms, so I have always been in farming environments,” he said at HREC.

Montanholi first earned a veterinarian degree from Santa Catarina State University in Brazil.

“To me, this whole idea of herd structure was important – when to breed your heifers, going from one herd to two on the same farm, grazing natural pastures and then cultivating pastures. There are a lot of dynamics, so I got a lot of training with that,” he said.

To find out more about those dynamics, he earned a master’s degree from Rio Grande do Sul Federal University in Brazil, and then went to Canada, where he earned his doctorate at the University of Guelph.

“I was in the center of genetics, but I also enjoyed studying about biomarkers, landmarks that could help in evaluating animal health and welfare,” he said. “Then I worked at the university as a researcher for a couple of years before moving to the east coast of Canada.”

Montanholi held post-doctoral and research associate positions at the University of Guelph for four years before accepting faculty positions at Dalhousie University in Canada and Harper Adams University in the United Kingdom. He also holds an adjunct professor position at the University of the Uruguay Republic.

“I was really working very close to the original (cattle) industry there (east coast of Canada) as an industry research chair. That is where I began working closer to the original cattle industry there. That is where the spark came to want to work in Extension,” he said.

He remembers when he had discussions with a central facility for testing bulls. He told them he felt the bulls were undernourished.

They were concerned about reduced semen with an increased scrotal width from more feed. But after they tried his nourishment suggestions and scanned, they had a fatter scrotal width, but their semen was better than ever before.

From there, Montanholi traveled to England where he was a professor. In England he had one of the highlights of his career.

“I got to shake hands with the sister of Queen Elizabeth,” he said. “I also worked with ABB, the largest packing plant in Europe.”

After that, he did consulting work in Brazil before moving to North Dakota and joining the NDSU faculty in Fargo.

“I feel honored to join a community where the beef industry means a lot. There’s a long history of Extension assisting producers and tailoring research,” he says.

Montanholi has a dual-appointment at NDSU in Extension and research.

In his Extension role, his responsibilities include developing statewide beef cattle Extension programming materials, conducting meetings and offering in-service training for beef cattle producers, county Extension personnel and other professionals involved in the beef industry.

His research and Extension programs have focused on improving the efficiency of feed utilization, evaluating metabolic rates from the whole animal to cellular levels, evaluating the relationships between feed efficiency and carcass composition, assessing the biological associations between feed efficiency and sexual maturity, optimizing sensing methodologies for assessing productive performance on-farm and in processing plants, and evaluating biomarkers for health and welfare.

“We are excited to have Yuri step into the role of Extension beef cattle specialist,” said Greg Lardy, the new NDSU vice president for agricultural affairs. “His international experience and training make him uniquely qualified for the position and we look forward to the opportunity he has to serve the beef cattle industry in North Dakota.”