Kris Ringwall

Kris Ringwall at the DREC ranch where he held the first-ever World Cow Congress that introduced smaller-framed cattle, such as Aberdeen, and how these cows could provide good benefits, while using less pasture.

Kris Ringwall, the director of NDSU’s Dickinson Research Extension Center and an Extension beef specialist since 1992, has officially retired from NDSU.

Ringwall has left to lead the new $38 million Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence at the University of Saskatchewan.

“I’m excited about it. It was a great opportunity that came up and it would have been difficult not to take advantage of this unique opportunity,” Ringwall said in a separate interview.

The Livestock and Forage Centre near the city of Clavet was recently constructed and is a large complex of field and science laboratories.

“It is a huge, new facility and many buildings. They conduct research not with only cattle but alternative livestock," he said.

Ringwall will oversee the three units composing the center, including the Beef Cattle Research and Teaching Unit, which includes a 1,500-head capacity feedlot and intensive environmental monitoring; the Forage and Cow-Calf Research and Teaching Unit, which includes 300 breeding cows; and the Goodale Research Farm, which includes 165 breeding cows as well as horses, bison and deer for research.

“Dr. Ringwall will be working to iron out all the wrinkles of two brand-new facilities. He is in charge of pulling the entire center together when it hasn’t existed before. He’ll be building a team and helping people from the three units work together when they haven’t before,” said Mary Buhr, dean of the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan.

Ringwall said he would miss DREC and enjoyed working there, but reminded everyone that he is still Professor Emeritus of Animal Science at NDSU DREC.

“The world is so broad and we need to recognize it and appreciate it,” Ringwall said. “This is just a different phase of life.”

Ringwall said he had a great team at DREC and hopes to build the same kind of research camaraderie and conduct research pertinent to the area.

Cow/calf producers across the Midwest, along with producers and others in North Dakota and surrounding states, will miss reading BeefTalk in their local ag publication or county newspaper, which Ringwall authored.

“Some of the notable events during Dr. Ringwall’s time as the director was his long-running weekly beef cattle industry newsletter titled, ‘BeefTalk’, that was distributed electronically in English and, for a period of time, in Spanish as well,” said Doug Landblom, DREC beef specialist.

Earlier this summer, Ringwall was asked how he was able to come up with subjects every week for BeefTalk.

“We talked about it and it just seemed to come together. Some of it has been about what tools producers have - EPDs, genomics, frame size, DNA, CHAPS. Other columns have been about our cowherd here at DREC and other things that came to mind to help cow/calf producers with decisions, such as buying a herd bull,” Ringwall said.

Ringwall had a way with words that was a delight to read. Words danced on the page, yet producers understood exactly what he was talking about.

Ringwall said he wrote 950 BeefTalk articles, starting in the fall of 2000. He joined DREC in the fall of 1992.

“All those BeefTalk articles. That was good. I was hoping to make it to 1,000 articles, but this opportunity came up and we have to stay open minded,” he said. “It is all about being a part of the dynamic of agriculture. DREC was always relevant to those it served, and it will continue to be.”

Ringwall always ended each BeefTalk with “May you find all your ear tags.”

DREC was at the forefront of animal traceability, age and source verification back when BeefTalk was first being written. DREC designed animal ear tags with every-increasing distance between where the calf was and where the ear tag could still be read.

Ringwall’s co-worker, Landblom, explained the work involving ear tags at the center.

“Under Dr. Ringwall’s leadership, high frequency RFID tagging system electronics and reading equipment were designed to read electronic animal identification numbers (EID) from animals moving down an alleyway with a high degree of accuracy,” Landblom said. “The system was tested and modified many times until the goal for high speed EID reading accuracy was met.”

Landblom said Ringwall provided “excellent leadership for the center spanning 25 years. During his tenure, facilities at the ranch headquarters located southwest of Manning, were updated in many ways.”

Ringwall oversaw the infrastructure that was necessary to conduct beef cattle research.

“That infrastructure included multiple replicated crop fields and pastures necessary to conduct the ongoing long-term integrated crop and beef cattle research,” Landblom said. “Research at DREC during Dr. Ringwall’s tenure focused on the effects of integration on crop production, input reduction, beef production, green-house gas measurement and reduction, improvement in soil health parameters, and subsequent improvement in profitability.”

As a geneticist by training, “Ringwall was intimately involved in a large beef cattle breeding project at the center to document and identify the effect of beef cattle frame size on longevity and profitability,” he added.

A new DREC facility was constructed during Ringwall’s tenure, and facilities at the ranch were expanded.

“Ringwall was instrumental in leading the effort for construction of a new office building that houses offices and meeting rooms equipped with state of the art distance-learning conferencing capabilities that are used frequently by staff and for other community learning events,” Landblom said.

Ringwall was instrumental in the Cow Herd Appraisal Performance Software (CHAPS) program, worked with producers on it, and believed in it.

CHAPS is a data-intensive beef production record system designed to provide producers with vital information about their managerial decisions and their herd’s performance. Many southwestern producers adopted CHAPS, and their beef programs grew from it.

Ringwall recently released the newest version of the software program, CHAPS 2000.

In the mid-80s, Ringwall was hired as the first joint Extension/research person in the state to be connected with a research center. He was located at Hettinger Research Extension Center.

Ringwall received his bachelor’s of science in agriculture from NDSU before studying at Oklahoma State University where he earned a master’s degree in animal science and a doctorate in animal breeding.

Ringwall is married to Marian and they have six adult children.

“Marian has come with me to Clavet, but our children are grown and live elsewhere,” he said.  

Earlier this summer, Ringwall welcomed the crowd to DREC’s annual field day as he did every year. The region and the center had recovered from the 2017 drought.

“We have a little breeze; the grass is growing and the cattle are happy. One thing different this year is you drive around and the wheat plants look good, and the amber waves of grain are going to be waving soon, but from my perspective, I know the cows are fat,” Ringwall said in July.

Greg Lardy, who formerly worked in Dickinson and is now the NDSU associate vice-president for Agricultural Affairs said Tim Faller, superintendent of the Hettinger Experiment Station from 1968 to 2006, will fill in as interim director.

Lardy said the process to find a replacement for Ringwall has begun.

“We will be looking for a specific expertise - some experience with Extension experience, administrative experience and he or she doesn’t need to be a beef specialist,” Lardy said.

Ringwall was a great leader, and will be hard to replace.

“I’m excited for him. When you lose a leader you lose a lot of history and knowledge. We will miss his leadership. He initiated traceability with the CHAPS program and was at the forefront of animal traceability with RFID tags,” Lardy said.

However, Lardy said Ringwall will have a major opportunity leading a newly created livestock and forage center.

Landblom said that, “Everyone at the Dickinson Research Extension Center wishes Kris well in his new endeavor.

And as one chapter at the Dickinson Research Extension Center closes, the page is turned and the dawning of a new chapter begins.”   

As Ringwall said in his last BeefTalk, “For us in agriculture, we find excitement in helping create, guide and implement research and education involving livestock and agricultural products of the soil.”

We wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors Dr. Kris Ringwall, and hope to see you at a future field day.