2014 Kenneth A. Spencer Award

Co-Sponsored by AGFD & AGRO

Ronald HorstDr. Ronald Horst was born in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, and attended West Virginia University where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science, followed by a Master of Science degree in Dairy Science from the University of Wisconsin in 1972, and a PhD in 1976 from this university, where he remained for an additional year as a postdoctoral fellow. From there, he moved to the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa, where he was appointed as a research physiologist and later as research leader and then as interim director.

His major research focus throughout this time has been on calcium and vitamin D nutrition and related biochemistry. He is internationally known for his contributions to this field and for his research on the etiology and prevention of major diseases of dairy cattle. This includes ground-breaking research on milk fever, a potentially fatal condition in animals and humans. His work showed that the textbooks were wrong about the cause of milk fever and that diets high in potassium were the cause. Further research led to the formulation of diets that are now the standard for cows. In addition, his research provided insight into the high incidence of problems in calcium metabolism and osteoporosis in aging human populations.

Dr. Horst has been an active and productive researcher for over forty years and he has contributed significantly in the fields of nutrition, endocrinology, and physiology, including the publication of more than six hundred research papers, reviews, chapters and abstracts. He has been the recipient of numerous professional awards for his research contributions in the field of animal health. Among many others, these include: The American Feed Manufacturer’s Association Nutrition Research Award (1983); National Agricultural Research Service Scientist of the Year (1983); Agway, Young Scientist Award in Dairy Production, in recognition of outstanding contributions in research (1987); Upjohn Physiology Award for outstanding dairy cattle research (1989); Dean Food Award for outstanding research in the dairy industry (2000); ADSA Fellow Award of the American Dairy Science Association (2006); Induction into the Agricultural Research Service Hall of Fame (2010); and USDA Scientist of the Year Citation (1983). In 2006, Dr. Horst received the Presidential Rank Award. These awards were established in 1978 as a means of recognizing outstanding service on the part of senior executive employees. These awards are considered the nation’s highest awards for civil service and are offered once each year and given by the President to a small group of career executives for consistently demonstrating strength, integrity, industry, and relentless commitment to excellence in public service.

Dr. Horst’s work on Calcium and Vitamin D metabolism in mammals and birds has traversed fields of both human and veterinary medicine as is evidenced by the numerous collaborative studies detailing vitamin D metabolism abnormalities occurring in several human diseases such as primary hyperparathyroidism, diabetes, hypercalcemia of malignancy, sarcoidosis, kidney disease, metabolic acidosis, aluminum toxicity associated with total parental nutrition, hypertension and magnesium deficiency. His research focused on basic and applied research in developing an understanding of the impact of nutrition on the prevention of metabolic and infectious diseases. Through individual initiative and creativity, collaboration, cooperation, and team building, he achieved results that have had a major impact on the direction of research in agriculture and nutrition, and enhanced worldwide capabilities to control and prevent metabolic disease.

During the last 10 years, there has been an explosion of interest in the role of Vitamin D deficiency in the onset of many types of cancer and infectious diseases. Aware of this increased interest and following retirement from USDA in 2006, Dr. Horst and his colleagues co-founded a new company, Heartland Assays, LLC. The main focus of Heartland Assays is to provide analytical services to research clientele and assist them in evaluating the Vitamin D and calcium status of their research subjects. As a result, Heartland Assays has been involved in providing analytical services to numerous Government, State, and Private research institutions. He also co-founded another new company, GlycoMyr, Inc., that is focused on developing products based on vitamin D to treat and prevent a number of human and animal diseases.