Al Rae

Alexander Lindsay Rae
Born 3 August 1923 to Thomas and Annie Rae. Grew up on a dairy farm at Pukengahu, Taranaki, New Zealand.
1944 B.Agr.Sc.
Massey University, New Zealand
1946 M.Agr.Sc.(1st Class Hons.) Massey University, New Zealand. Thesis Title: Some aspects of the Progeny Testing of New Zealand Romney Marsh Ram.
1950 PhD Iowa State University. Supervisors: Dr. J.L. Lush, Dr. L.N. Hazel.
1951-1980 Foundation Chair of Sheep Husbandry, Massey University and Head of Department of Animal Science
1980-1988 Personal Chair, Massey University.
1988- Emeritus Professor - Animal Breeding and Genetics, The Institute of Veterinary, Animal & Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North New Zealand.

The following text is taken from an article writen in 1998 on the occassion of Al Rae being awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit. You may also wish to read the citation of the election of Al Rae to Honourary Life Member of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production ...PDF.

Professor Alexander Lindsay Rae has recently been made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit as announced in the latest Queens Birthday Honours List.  

This honour recognises Professors Rae's achievements in animal genetics. 

Professor Al Rae was born at Eltham Taranaki on 3 August 1923,  the only son of Annie and Thomas Rae.  Al lived on a dairy farm at Pukengahu just 16 km inland from Eltham in Taranaki, NZ.  A scholarship enabled Al to attend Taranaki Boys High school.   Al completed his Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree from Massey University in 1944. 

Al completed his M.Agr.Sc thesis with first Class Honours in 1946 - his thesis topic was entitled "Some aspects of the Progeny Testing of New Zealand Romney Marsh Rams". Shortly after completing his thesis Al headed for Iowa State University at Ames, Iowa   (the established Mecca at the time and for years to follow) to undertake his Ph.D.  

At Iowa, Al was obviously greatly influenced by his supervisors Dr. J.L. Lush and Dr. L.N. Hazel, who credit him as one of the brightest and hard-working of their students.   Many people feel that Al's ability to read and understand Lush was a key to the development of his career.  But perhaps one of the most important features of the Lush influence was his both feet on the ground approach - never too far away from animals.  

Al gained his Doctor of Philosophy in 1950 and returned to Massey Agricultural college in 1951 to occupy the foundation Chair as Professor of Sheep Husbandry at Massey University.  

Prof. Rae's name is synonymous with sheep breeding at Massey University, New Zealand.  

Over four decades he played a key role in improving the genetic quality of the national flock, particularly the Romney breed.  Sheep production improved as a result.

Prof. Rae established the heritability of production traits in the Romney in the late 1960's leading to work with the late Dr Ted Clarke in developing the national flock recording scheme.  Positive traits could be identified, the guesswork in breeding was taken out. 

"It was a start, we needed that before we could apply effective selection" he said. 

His other work was a study of population structure - working out how the population could be manipulated to maximise genetic gain.  From there came a group breeding scheme which helped disseminate gains in production traits faster through the sheep population.  

Prof. Rae has been a member of the standing advisory committee of Herd Improvement Council from 1995, and in that role reviewed development of a national artificial breeding programme for dairy cows.  It had a major impact on lifting dairy cattle production and profitability. 

He recalls the late Prof. F W (Daddy) Dry, who developed the Drysdale breed, was an early mentor.  After Prof. Dry had retired, Prof. Rae was responsible for controlling the Drysdale gene as it left Massey University.  he then helped set up two carpet wool development companies and a wool growers cooperative for the breed. 

He retired in 1988, but carried on his links with Massey University through the former Animal Science Department (now Institute of Veterinary, Animal & Biomedical Sciences) and as a trustee of The NZ Animal Breeding Trust.

Since 1988 he has been a fellow and patron of the Rare Breeds Society of NZ.   Prof. Rae served as a member of the permanent World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production and in 1980 chaired a world congress on sheep and beef cattle breeding at Massey University.  Al has served on seven Professional Societies, 21 National Committees and six International Committees.

In 1993, the A.L. Rae Symposium on Animal Breeding and Genetics was attended by delegates (including many of Al's 43 current or former postgraduate students and colleagues) from around the world.  He is a recipient of the McMeekan Award for animal production research, and also received the Sir Ernest Marsden medal for outstanding service to science.   

As Emeritus Professor, Al still works for Massey.  As Dorian Garrick puts it when he introduces Al "I would like to introduce Professor Rae; he is a key person in this area of work and is an Emeritus Professor at Massey.   This means he is retired, but still works for us and we don't pay him".    

The A.L. Rae Chair of Animal Breeding and Genetics is currently held by Professor Dorian Garrick at Massey University and is jointly funded by AgResearch and Massey University.    

Prof. Rae said many of his achievements would not have been possible without the team at Massey. 

"It's a great honour to receive the award, but at the same time I'm aware that much credit should go to my colleagues and students who worked or studied in the Department of Sheep Husbandry, later the Department of Animal Science.  

Congratulations Prof. Rae from all of your friends, colleagues and students of animal breeding and genetics around the world.

Of interest...
Quantitative Genetics at Massey University
Historical Livestock images at Massey University
Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences at Massey University