WASECA, Minn. – Hugh Chester-Jones’ career has been a perfect blend of his interests.
    “I’m not directly from a farm, but my mother’s side of the family are all farmers in north Wales. I spent a lot of time on those dairy, beef and sheep farms. That tweaked my interest in agriculture, and I built upon that.”
    Plus, his parents had careers in education – his mom as a high school biology teacher and his dad as a college professor.
    “There was a certain academic base I have to live up to,” Chester-Jones said.
       By combining the two, Chester-Jones has spent the last 35 years researching animal nutrition as a professior for beef and dairy production at the University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca. Chester-Jones will retire from his position June 2.
    “I feel I’ve contributed to the objectives of applied animal science in both dairy and dairy beef,” he said. “I’ve interacted and collaborated with a lot of colleagues, farmers and students, and I’ve really enjoyed that over the years.”
    Originally from the United Kingdom, Chester-Jones studied agriculture in college in England. His experience working on farms in the UK, the industry technical service and visiting his family’s farms plus an exchange program on a Canadian dairy farm furthered his interest in the industry. In 1971, after the Canadian dairy farm experience, Chester-Jones met his wife, Ann, originally from Massachusetts.
    Chester-Jones came to the United States in 1975.
    “I came here on a visitor visa and never left,” he said.
    After a brief stint working on a dairy, he started studying at the University of Massachusetts, where he received a bachelor’s degree in animal science. He went on to receive a master’s degree and Ph.D. in ruminant nutrition from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University while working full time as an agricultural supervisor managing an animal science research unit.
    In 1985, he made the move to Waseca to join the University of Minnesota’s SROC. His overall research focus has always been nutritional management, although not always in dairy. At first, he worked on a sow to finish research project.
    He followed his predecessor in maintaining the dairy-beef program, which he said is one of his most notable research projects.
    “That was looking at an overall system and trying to streamline that from calf to harvest,” Chester-Jones said. “The whole network of the dairy beef industry changed in the mid ‘80s through the mid ‘90s. It’s still an important enterprise.”
    His beef-dairy research included approaches to continuous feeding of high energy diets using whole versus cracked or a two-phase system including some forage.
    “It’s simple, but a lot of people thought you can’t feed whole corn to small calves,” Chester-Jones said. “We did that and then we fed whole corn all the way through.”
    They also studied incorporating hay into the ration along with alternative protein and energy sources such as beet pulp. He also evaluated implant strategies.
    “I think the main thing is we put together a system from 2 days to 14 months to show people the options to get good calf growth,” Chester-Jones said.
    The research facility had small feedlots with pens of six; however, the industry starting growing to pens of 40-100 animals.
    “The perception was that we really didn’t have any relevant applied information anymore,” said Chester-Jones about the dairy-beef research.
    That is when he started to focus more on the heifer side of the industry. At first, he researched the genetic differences in the SROC dairy herd, which was used by many researchers and students from the University of Minnesota-Waseca when it was still open.
    For the last 16 years, Chester-Jones and colleagues have focused on a unique partnership between the University, select area dairy farms and the industry evaluating nutritional and management aspect of calves raised from 2-5 days up to 6 months then following these through first lactation. The studies have included milk replacer formulations and levels along with calf starter formulation and levels as well as post nursery work.
    “One of our goals was to evaluate economic systems such as promoting calf starter intake in the nursery phase,” Chester-Jones said.
    Other research and outreach projects throughout the years have included rBST, stray voltage and macro nutrient balancing on dairies and grazing systems for dairy heifers among many others.
    “Anything related to on-farm work and applied systems was wonderful,” Chester-Jones said about what he enjoyed most.
    He also appreciated interactions with students and liked being able to present his project to others across the country and around the world where he could see friends and meet new people. For the past 28 years, Chester-Jones has been a part of a dairy management project that involved universities from 23 states. Every five years the project updates objectives as related to dairy. Chester-Jones is proud in being one of the main contributors for youngstock.
    “Those relationships have been really positive over the years,” he said. “It’s been very educational, not only learning what people are doing around the country, but every few years we’ve taken trip overseas.”
    These trips have included visiting dairies in the Netherlands, New Zealand and Spain. Chester-Jones has also traveled to South America to help a group trying to understand the local dairy industry.
    “As we’re in this global economy, it’s good to understand how everybody applies different systems,” he said.
    Over his career, Chester-Jones has seen a lot of changes in the industry, including technology.
    “The technology has changed for the better, but we have to be careful how we use it,” he said.
    The size and number of dairy herds in the state has also changed from his earlier days in his position.
    “The question is now, ‘Who do we focus our extension information on?’” he said. “The large dairies have their own veterinarian and nutritionists.”
    On the dairy-beef side, packers are looking at different options and are now more interested in a crossbred steer rather than a 100% dairy animal.
    Despite changes and challenges that have popped up over the years, Chester-Jones feels good about the work he has done and the people who have helped him along the way.
    After retirement, Chester-Jones will focus on resolving health issues before traveling overseas to see family and moving close to his youngest daughter’s family and visiting his oldest daughter in Utah. He has a passion for North Wales and hopes to finally learn how to speak Welsh as well as his parents did in order to honor his Welsh background.