Rommert Douwe Politiek

"The breeding goal is aimed at cattle producing milk and meat in the most economical way under present and prospected systems of herd improvement and demands of the market" (1962)

Date of Birth: 1926 Wons near the Afsluitdijk in the province of Friesland, the Netherlands.

The following material was excerpted from "The Contribution of R. D. Politiek and his Students To Animal Breeding" by E. W. Brascamp from Proceedings of a world symposium in honour of professor R. D. Politiek, September 1988.

After military service in WWII, he entered the Agricultural University in Wageningen in 1950.  He worked on protein content of milk.  He finished his studies in 1955 and accepted a job with FRS, the Friesland Cattle Herdbook where he continued to work on protein content.  His first international paper was presented in 1956 at the VII International Congress of Animal Husbandry of the European Association of Animal Production in Madrid on solids-non-fat-content in milk.  In 1957 he obtained his PhD degree and his thesis was titled, "Influence of heredity and environment on the composition of milk of Friesian cows and the practical possibilities of selection for protein content."  In that same year Friesland started paying producers for the protein content of milk.

Prof. Politiek also worked on the improvement of methods of progeny testing.  He encouraged selection of cows for size because of the positive correlation between size and milk yield.  In 1958 he moved to Utrecht, to the institute which later was moved to Zeist.  Presently it is called Research Institute for Animal Production "Schoonoord".  He participated in research on intervals between milkings with special attention to machine milking, machine stripping, and ease of milking.  At the Max Planck Institute at Mariensee, FRG, he got ideas for a machine to measure ease of milking and in 1960 a system for performance and progeny testing was introduced.

In 1960 Politiek went to Wageningen to take over Animal Breeding after the death of Prof ir W. de Jong.  At that time the department had only a few staff members.  The Animal Sciences department experienced a tremendous growth in number of students, in staff and in buildings.  There were 10 students in Animal Science in 1960 and 110 by 1988.  In 1968 Politiek became full professor in Animal Breeding and head of the newly established Department of Animal Breeding.  Politiek developed his teaching and made plans for an experimental farm.  He put much effort into persuading the Dutch industry to adopt modern methods in their selection programs.

Prof Politiek was not formally educated in quantitative genetics.  In 1970, Prof J. E. Legates from Raleigh, North Carolina visited Wageningen on a Senior Research Fellowship.  Legates taught animal breeding in a manner that was new for Wageningen and for Politiek.  In 1974, Prof A. E. Freeman from Iowa State visited Wageningen and further provided impetus to these newer methods.  That level of competence became the norm for subsequent animal breeding students at Wageningen.

With his student, J. Dommerholt, they extended the methods of progeny testing and estimation of breeding values going from unadjusted daughter averages to best linear unbiased prediction.  Politiek presented important ideas how to optimize the collaboration of herdbooks, milk recording and artificial insemination.  In 1970 he published a report on these ideas which were realized some ten years later.  He spoke to numerous producer meetings to stress the importance of short generation intervals and high selection pressure together with accurate estimation of breeding values.  His initiatives with the experimental herd reflected the concepts he was trying to teach.  The results and with the help of his many students he had great influence on the present shape of the Dutch dairy industry.  Politiek also encouraged research in other species (pigs and sheep), and his ideas affected breeding programs in all species.

Prof Politiek cherished international contacts.  He was a regular attendee of EAAP-meetings, visited colleagues in other countries and stimulated fellow scientists to visit the Netherlands and spend some time in Wageningen.  Politiek sent numerous students and staff members abroad to keep in touch with current developments anywhere in the world.  His work in EAAP was notable.  He tried to improve the efficiency of meetings by keeping time schedules, use of high quality slides.  He was president of the Cattle Commission from 1973-1979 during which he stimulated the formation of working groups to evaluate the status of a particular problem.  With E. P. Cunningham he initiated studies on "Livestock Production in Europe:Perspectives and Prospects" published in 1982.  He served many years as editor-in-chief of Livestock Production Science.

Some of Prof Politiek's students were
M.P.M. Vos, 1969
M.J.M. Tielen, 1974
H. Bakker, 1974
W.A.G. Cop, 1974
J. Dommerholt, 1975
E. W. Brascamp, 1975
R.C. Buis, 1976
E. H. Ketelaars, 1979
P. Walstra, 1980
S. Korver, 1982
H.A.M. Van der Steen, 1983
J.A.M. Van arendonk, 1985
A. Meijering, 1986
D. Van de Lagemaat, 1986
J. Jansen, 1986
J.B.M. Wilmink, 1987
F. R. Leenstra, 1987
J.W.M. Merks, 1988
G. De Roo, 1988
E. Kanis, 1988
J.K. Oldenbroek, 1988