James Francis Cavanaugh, Executive Secretary of The American Jersey Cattle Club (AJCC) from 1956 to July 1, 1985 and the founding Executive Secretary of National All-Jersey Inc. (NAJ), died peacefully in his sleep on April 6, 2010, eight days shy of reaching his 93rd birthday.
Born April 14, 1917 to a Kansas dairy and wheat farm family, Jim Cavanaugh worked with people equally well on the concrete floor of a holding pen or the carpeted floor of a CEO's office. The progress of the Jersey breed and the USJersey organizations under his leadership from 1956 to 1985 was nothing short of remarkable. Among his contributions were increased production based upon adoption of sound genetic programs, a strong milk marketing program, expansion through Genetic Recovery, the development of Jersey Marketing Service, founding of the Jersey Journal
, and originator of the National Heifer Sale to fund an outstanding youth program and a program to control genetic abnormalities in the Jersey breed.
A hallmark of Cavanaugh’s combined career as Executive Secretary of both the AJCC and NAJ was his efforts to expand and improve markets for Jersey milk. In the early ‘50s, he recognized the value of the All-Jersey® milk program and pioneered its national expansion. As fluid milk markets changed, non-traditional programs were adopted to improve the profitability of Jersey dairying. In the mid-‘70s, the Equity Project was developed, returning untold millions to Jersey milk producers and setting the stage for implementation of multiple component pricing (MCP) as a part of Federal Order Reform on January 1, 2000.
Breed improvement programs were developed under Cavanaugh’s leadership to make the Jersey cow competitive and profitable. Foremost among these was the AJCC’s adoption of the USDA Sire Summary in 1967. The Club was the first breed registry association to designate the summary as its official sire rating program, paving the way for a rapid rate of improvement in Jersey productivity. The first package of Jersey herd improvement services was developed during his tenure. The Total Performance Evaluation (TPE) program bundled testing and type evaluation services in one package at one low price. The services and benefits provided by TPE were updated and expanded over the years, and became the foundation of the current REAP program.
Another non-traditional program molded by Cavanaugh was Genetic Recovery, in which superior unregistered Jersey females could be brought into the AJCC Herd Register. More than 75,000 females were enrolled in the program’s three steps from its adoption on January 1, 1975 through Cavanaugh’s retirement nearly 10 years later. The program was so successful that it was adopted by the Guernsey and Ayrshire associations, and became the model for similar programs across the world.
Breed expansion was fostered by the organization of Jersey Marketing Service in 1971, when it took over management of the National Heifer Sale. Jersey Marketing Service played a particularly important function in moving excess replacement cattle from areas like the Northeast U.S. into growing All-Jersey® milk markets in the Southeast. JMS increased the professionalism of cattle marketing by creating stringent health protocols and providing complete pedigree and testing information to buyers.
These programs and services bolstered the basic service of the Club: animal identification, or registration. At his retirement, registrations had increased 39% compared to the lowest period in history.
Jim Cavanaugh was the first editor of the Jersey Journal
when the magazine began publication in October of 1953. He held special fondness for the contributions of the Journal
to promote the programs and policies of the AJCC and NAJ Boards of Directors.
A milestone was the development of a positive approach to deal with genetic abnormalities in the Jersey breed, which emerged in the mid-‘70s. A program of scientific research and testing was created to support the declaration of abnormalities and the permanent labeling of carrier animals. The awareness of the only two abnormalities yet declared—Limber Legs and Rectovaginal Constriction—resulted in early control.
Cavanaugh was a graduate of Kansas State College (now University) in 1942 with a major in dairy production and minors in dairy management and agricultural journalism. He was a member of the 1941 dairy cattle judging team which won at Waterloo, Iowa and placed third at the National Intercollegiate Judging Contest.
An Air Force B-24 pilot with 50 combat missions in the European theatre during World War II, he attained the rank of Major. Following his discharge, he returned to Hoard’s Dairyman,
Ft. Atkinson, Wis., as associate editor. In 1947, he joined the staff of The American Jersey Cattle Club as assistant secretary, then was promoted to Executive Secretary nine years later.
Jim served in leadership capacities with National Dairy Shrine, the American Dairy Science Association, the Purebred Dairy Cattle Association, the National Brucellosis Committee, and the National Society of Livestock Records Association, plus the American board of KEEP, the Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project of Japan. He traveled worldwide on behalf of the U.S. Jersey and dairy industry.
He was also a breeder of Registered Jersey™ cattle. His chosen prefix reflected his optimism and drive. It was the military pilot’s term to describe optimal conditions for flying: Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited.
After retiring from the Jersey organizations, Jim joined the staff of the American Guernsey Association. His contributions to that organization in an eighteen-month period were most significant. From April 15, 1987 to March 1988, Cavanaugh was acting executive secretary of National Dairy Herd Improvement Association, Inc. From January 1, 1988 to January 1, 1992 Jim was Research Development Coordinator for the AJCC Research Foundation, which he helped created in 1967.
Numerous honors were bestowed upon Cavanaugh in addition to the AJCC Distinguished Service Award. These included:
2000 - Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame
1993 - National Pedigreed Livestock Council, Distinguished Service Award
1992 - World Jersey Cattle Bureau, Distinguished Service Award
1987 - National Association of Animal Breeders, Distinguished Service Award
1984 - National Society of Livestock Records Association, Distinguished Service Award
1984 - National DHIA, Distinguished Service Award
1982 - Kansas State University, Distinguished Service in Agriculture
1978 - National Dairy Shrine, Guest of Honor
1977 - World Dairy Expo, Inc., Man of the Year
1976 - Kansas Interbreed Dairy Council, Certificate of Honor, Kansas Dairy Leaders
1975 - The American Dairy Science Association, Distinguished Service Award
1975 - The American Jersey Cattle Club, Lifetime Membership
1971 - Commonwealth of Kentucky, Kentucky Colonel
1968 - The Ohio State University, Dairy Science Hall of Service
1964 - The Borden Company, Certificate of Appreciation
His passion in later years was to edit the “Gotham Herdsman” books and newsletters, chronicling the lives of the Borden Boys, the college students who cared for the dairy cows of all breeds displayed in the Borden’s Dairy World of Tomorrow exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair.
In 1999, he was present for Elsie’s 60th
Anniversary and Birthday Bash in Bryant Park, New York City, then again in June of 2007 for the 150th
Anniversary of the Borden Company and to celebrate the donation of Borden Boys’ personal memorabilia to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. During his 2007 visit to New York City, The New York Times
profiled the lifetime love affair between Jim Cavanaugh and Elsie, who he helped bring to life in bovine form at the 1939 World’s Fair.
Jim and Virginia “Ginny” Allen were married on April 22, 1946. They shared 59 years of marriage and lived in their Columbus home from 1949 until her death in January of 2006 at age 88. Her support was publically acknowledged by Jim in the response he made at the presentation of the AJCC Distinguished Service Award. “She played both mother and father to our four children. She managed the household, the finances and represented the family where necessary in civic, church, neighborhood and school affairs. She physically did the lawn and garden work, interior and exterior painting and the house and still managed to play in the championship flight at our military gold club for a dozen years.”
Jim Cavanaugh is survived by sons and daughters-in-law, Michael and Susan Cavanaugh of Arlington VA, Paul and Jean Cavanaugh of Columbus, Kevin and Joan Cavanaugh of Raleigh NC; and daughter and son-in-law, Gerald and Mary Manley of Columbus; grandchildren, James, Thomas, Matthew, Scott and Daniel Cavanaugh, Patrick Manley, and Kate Caress; great-grandchildren, Jessica, Nathan, Jordan Cavanaugh, and Russell Caress. He was a 63-year member of St. Catharine Parish, where a funeral mass will be conducted Friday, April 9.
At the request of the family, in lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to The J.F. Cavanaugh Fund of the AJCC Research Foundation, 6486 E. Main Street, Reynoldsburg OH 43068-2362.