March 17, 2024

Jim Oltjen's Animal Science Family Tree and Legacy


Our family has a rich history in animal science that spans three generations, and ASAS has been an integral part of my family since 1958. It has provided us with countless opportunities, starting when my dad's cousin, Robert "Bob," was in school. If you happen to be in the Hiawatha, Kansas area, chances are you know a member of the Oltjen family, as we have been proudly farming in Kansas for five generations.

Bob kickstarted our journey in the field of animal science, pursuing his BS and MS degrees from Kansas State, followed by a Ph.D. in Physiology and Biochemistry at Oklahoma State University. Throughout his career, he held various positions, all within USDA-ARS. Bob was committed to being active with ASAS, becoming an ASAS Fellow in 1978 and serving as the national board President, 1982-1983.

In our family, the saying "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" holds true. Following in Bob's footsteps and the five other cousins who have a BS in Animal Science at K-State, I also pursued a BS in Physics and an MS in animal science at Kansas State. However, I took a different path for my Ph.D. and headed west to the University of California - Davis, receiving my degree in nutrition and specializing in beef cattle and feedlot management. My teaching and research career began at Oklahoma State University in 1983 and later, in 1990, I returned to UC-Davis as an Extension Specialist, where I have dedicated 34 years of my life. Retirement might be on the horizon, but the passion for my work and being a mentor for the next generation of animal scientists still burns strong.

Alongside my academic pursuits, I have been actively involved with ASAS, serving as Western Section President in 2002, on the Board of Directors, Chair of the Publication Committee, Program Chair, and National Board President in 2010. I have also served as the editor-in-chief of Translational Animal Science (2017-present) and assisted with the inaugural ASAS Writing Workshop in 2023. I humbly and with great honor received the ASAS Western Section Extension Award in 1997 and the national ASAS Extension Award in 2003 and became an ASAS Fellow in 2014.

My wife, Sharon (BS-Animal Science and MS Avian Science-UC-Davis), and I are immensely proud that our son, Cory, has followed in our footsteps. Cory, too, attended Kansas State and obtained his BS in animal science in 2019. He gained valuable experience as an intern at the University of Idaho and then went to New Mexico State for an MS in Range Science before his current position in USDA-NRCS in the Corvallis, Oregon area.

As a family of animal scientists, we understand that our family tree extends far beyond us. We have been both mentored by and mentors to three generations of individuals who have become our cherished family and friends. ASAS has played a significant role in this journey, fostering connections through mentorship, partnership, leadership, and friendship.

Our family's roots are deeply intertwined with three prestigious institutions, Kansas State, UC-Davis, and ASAS. They have provided us with a meaningful life of making the world a better place for animals and humans. As Sharon and I look towards the future, we are committed to ensuring that the opportunities bestowed upon us are passed on to the generations that follow. The ASAS Foundation's 1908 Society provides us with a remarkable chance to establish a lasting legacy, ensuring that future animal scientists have the same opportunities that Bob, Sharon and I, and Cory have had.

ASAS is not just a professional society; it is our "home society." The doors that ASAS has opened for us throughout the years are immeasurable, and we are eternally grateful for the countless opportunities it continues to provide.

I sincerely hope that you take a moment to reflect on your own animal science family tree, from the mentors who guided you during your undergraduate and graduate studies to the support you received throughout your career. I am confident that, like me, you will find ASAS standing alongside you every step of the way. I urge you to consider the legacy you could leave behind by supporting the ASAS Foundation and ensuring a bright future for aspiring animal scientists.


For information about ASAS Foundation's 1908 Society, visit online HERE, or contact
Amy Brainard, ASAS Chief Development Officer at or (217) 729-7600.