J. Lee Majeskie

The UM professor of agriculture and renowned cattle judge helped develop programs for youths.

August 28, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

J. Lee Majeskie, a retired professor in the department of animal and avian sciences at the University of Maryland and an internationally known dairy cattle judge, died Friday of a heart attack at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The Centreville resident was 67.

Dr. Majeskie was born in Waukesha, Wis., and raised on his family's Holstein dairy farm near Pewaukee, Wis.

After graduating from Waukesha South High School in 1959, he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in dairy science from the University of Wisconsin. He earned a doctorate in dairy cattle breeding and genetics from Kansas State University.

From 1970 to 1975, he was director of program development for the U.S. Brown Swiss Cattle Association in Beloit, Wis.

During his tenure with the association, he developed a production and type registry program; initiated the National Brown Swiss Young Sire Program; and directed the growth of the identity enrollment program for unregistered Brown Swiss cattle.

In 1975, he joined the University of Maryland, College Park, as an extension dairy specialist providing educational programs to youth and adults working in the dairy industry.

Dr. Majeskie conducted research into dairy cattle management that used data generated from the Dairy Herd Improvement program.

He also provided the leadership and development of educational programs for dairy producers and users of dairy records generated in the DHI program and gave 43 international presentations in 21 countries on the topic of genetic improvement of dairy cattle.

"I was a brand-new Ph.D., and Lee was one of a handful of people who helped me interface between the dairy farmers and academia because a big part of our job is working as extension specialists," said Dr. Mark A. Varner, professor and extension dairy scientist at the University of Maryland College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, and a close friend of 25 years.

"There was a time when most university agricultural departments were committed to working with 4-H youth, and Lee was very much involved during that time frame," Dr. Varner said.

For 25 years, Dr. Majeskie headed the highly successful 4-H dairy cattle judging program, during which time his state teams placed in the top three nationally 18 times and won the national contest five times.

"He was one of the best cattle judges statewide, regionally, nationally and internationally," Dr. Varner said.

Dr. Majeskie conducted judging clinics in six states and served as official judge for more than 125 district, regional and national cattle shows in 31 states.

His judging expertise took him to Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Switzerland, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Puerto Rico and Australia.

In 1988, Dr. Majeskie also established a dairy leasing program that allowed 4-H members who didn't live on farms to lease a dairy cow and participate in projects, including showing the animals.

"He was extremely committed to youth development through this 4-H project," said Gail P. Yeiser, assistant to the dean for external relations at the University of Maryland College of Agriculture & Natural Resources.

"He always urged them to do their best, and he opened a lot of doors for suburban youth to work in the dairy-leasing program," Mrs. Yeiser said. "He was very energetic, and had so much energy that he energized those around him."

Dr. Majeskie wrote widely on dairy issues. He was a frequent contributor to Hoard's Dairyman and was the author of Status of United States Dairy Cattle and The Basics of Cattle Judging.

His work brought him recognition over the years, and last spring he was inducted into the Maryland Dairy Shrine. The American Dairy Science Association presented him its Award of Honor at the organization's recent annual meeting.

Dr. Majeskie was a member of Asbury United Methodist Church in Millington, the Symphony Village Community Association and the Terrapin Club.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Centreville United Methodist Church.

Surviving are his wife of 11 years, the former Judy Alexander; a son, Matthew R. Majeskie of Madison, Wis.; a stepson, Troy A. Alexander of Millington; a sister, Joyce Martinson of Elkhorn, Wis.; and a granddaughter. An earlier marriage ended in divorce.

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