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Agricultural News

Oklahoma State Alumna Minnie Lou Bradley Receives Highest National Honor

Wed, 19 Nov 2014 10:50:49 CST

Oklahoma State Alumna Minnie Lou Bradley Receives Highest National Honor

Oklahoma State University alumna Minnie Lou Bradley has been selected to the most prestigious honor an animal agriculturist can receive: Having her portrait hung in the Saddle and Sirloin Gallery in Lexington, Kentucky.

"Throughout her more than 60-year career, Mrs. Bradley has been an innovator, an educator, an industry leader, a steward of the land and a master breeder," said Clint Rusk, head of the OSU Department of Animal Science. "She is genuinely revered in the livestock industry and exceptionally worthy of being the 2014 portrait honoree."

The portrait presentation took place on Nov. 16, during the 41st annual North American International Livestock Exposition. The gallery is believed to be the largest portrait collection commemorating a single industry, with honorees selected by their peers. The collection was established in 1903.

Anyone who wishes to donate to the Minnie Lou Bradley induction fund can still do so by contacting the Oklahoma State University Foundation by phone at 1-800-622-4678 or by visiting the organization's website at OSUgiving.com via the Internet.

Rusk said the commissioning, creation and hanging of an oil painting portrait in honor of one's lifetime accomplishments is a somewhat unique and noteworthy honor, made possible through the generosity of donors and supporters of Mrs. Bradley, the university and the animal agriculture industry.

"Starting with her days as a student at OSU, Minnie Lou has distinguished herself as a leader with exceptional ability and vision," said Jarold Callahan, president of Express Ranches in Yukon, Oklahoma and a former faculty member of OSU's Department of Animal Science. "She has continued to add improvements and innovations to her own operation and has served the industry by her unselfish commitment to numerous service organizations."

Sally Northcutt, the first female faculty member of OSU's Department of Animal Science now with Method Genetics LLC, also was among the many livestock professionals advocating for Bradley's entry into the Saddle and Sirloin Club.

"Minnie Lou understands the impact animal genetics and producer management decisions have on seedstock and commercial cattle, and is exceedingly knowledgeable about the many facets of beef cattle production, from cow-calf through to consumer satisfaction," Northcutt said. "I was a student when I first met Minnie Lou. She reminded me that we should work hard and not dwell on the extra time and effort we contribute, but consider our labors as service to the industry."

Rusk agreed, saying the word "perseverance" comes to mind when he thinks of Minnie Lou Bradley.

"From the time as a young girl when Minnie Lou longed to travel to shows with the local FFA chapter, to entering college in 1949 as the first female animal science student in what was then called Oklahoma A&M and becoming the first woman to compete on the nationally renowned OSU Livestock Judging Team, to being the first female president of the American Angus Association: She has overcome challenges and opened the door for other young women to accomplish their dreams in the livestock industry," he said.

Minnie Lou (Ottinger) Bradley grew up on a diversified livestock and wheat farm near Hydro, Oklahoma. She was active in 4-H, showing Angus cattle, sheep and swine. Her first experience exhibiting animals came at age nine when she selected 10 commercial wheat pasture lambs from among 800 head on her father's farm and entered them in the livestock show at Oklahoma City. She won the blue ribbon.

By the time she was in sixth grade, Minnie Lou had made up her mind she was going to Oklahoma A&M College to major in animal husbandry and be on what had already become its legendary livestock judging team. In 1949, she did just that, adding a minor in agriculture journalism to her career path.

As a junior, Minnie Lou became the first female member of the livestock judging team. She has shared the story that Oklahoma A&M coach Glenn Bratcher took "a lot of ribbing from other coaches" as he had to make special arrangements for a girl to travel with him and six young men.

Upon her first judging team outing at the Ft. Worth Stock Show, then Animal Science Department Head Albert E. Darlow met with the team and told Minnie Lou, "You are the first girl to represent Oklahoma A&M and you will be the last if you do not come through." No pressure.

"Minnie Lou didn't just come through, she became one of the most successful livestock judges in the team's history," Rusk said.

In 1951 at the American Royal, she became the first female competitor to earn high individual honors in beef cattle. She followed that feat by becoming the first woman to win the coveted high individual overall honor at the International Intercollegiate Livestock Judging Contest in Chicago, earning 901 out of 1,000 possible points and beating 180 of the nation's best male livestock judgers in the process.

True to her goal, Minnie Lou became the first woman to be awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in animal husbandry from Oklahoma A&M College.

Upon graduation, she went to work for the Texas Angus Association as assistant to the executive secretary and a "fieldman," the first woman to assume either role. In the summer of 1954, she took a six-week leave of absence to work for J.P. Walker of Angus Valley Farms in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Walker entrusted Minnie Lou all of 22 years of age at the time to visit and represent his business interests with 60 of his best Angus customers located across the United States.

Minnie Lou married her college friend, Bill Bradley, in 1955 and they purchased a 3,300-acre ranch of rolling prairie and grasslands in Childress County, Texas. From that purchase has grown the nationally renowned Bradley 3 Ranch enterprise.

In 1986, believing beef was not only tasty but also a great health food, Minnie Lou and her daughter, Mary Lou, launched B3R Country Meats, a beef merchandising program that grew into a company recognized worldwide for natural Angus beef. Although the meat company was sold in 2005, the expanded 10,000-acre ranching operation situated in the Texas panhandle continues under the management of the Bradley family.

"The Bradley 3 Ranch program truly is focused on breeding problem-free cattle that will survive and thrive on a forage program, including standing low-quality winter range, with minimal supplementation," said David Lalman, OSU Cooperative Extension beef cattle specialist.

While this is the ranch's primary focus, the Bradley operation has diligently worked to improve genetic merit for carcass quality and cutability, as well.

"They have been collecting DNA-marker data on their bulls since 1994, and are currently engaged and have been for some time in one of the nation's most progressive research projects in this area," Lalman said. "In fact, B3R has provided leadership on many industry innovations."

Numerous honors and achievements have been earned by Minnie Lou and her family, in recognition of their dedication to the beef industry and perseverance in developing a successful cattle breeding program that takes the entire food chain into consideration.

Previous awards include OSU's "Master Breeder" award in 2010 and "Animal Science Graduate of Distinction" honor in 1988, the Beef Improvement Federation's Pioneer Award, Beef magazine's Top Forty Beef Producers, Texas Cattle Feeders Beef Merchandiser Award, National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Environmental Stewardship Award and Certified Angus Beef® (CAB) Seedstock Commitment Award, among others.

"Minnie Lou Bradley has become a living legend and an inspiration to all those who choose to follow in her footsteps," Rusk said. "She is clearly most deserving of having her portrait hung alongside the most noted stockmen, leaders and pioneers who helped establish and advance modern animal agriculture."



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