Dr. Jeff Kaisand — State Veterinarian


Dr. Jeff Kaisand is at the forefront of ensuring animal welfare and health across Iowa. He works within the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and leads the department’s Animal Industry Bureau, which oversees regulation of animal movement, exhibitions, importation, and disease eradication/control.

He plays an integral part in coordinating with partners to prevent, prepare for, and respond to foreign animal diseases (FADs). The bureau, too, regulates certain commercial companion animal breeders and retailers, and becomes involved in cases of neglect.

Along with office staff, the team Kaisand works with includes five district veterinarians in the field, who assist farmers and investigate FADs; eight livestock inspectors, for licensed animal welfare facilities and auction markets; and two compliance investigators, to handle complaints and other issues.

In addition, Kaisand is the executive secretary for the Iowa Board of Veterinary Medicine.

Serving producers is truly rewarding, Kaisand says, as is paying forward the opportunities he had growing up in 4-H and caring for livestock. His love for animals developed as a youngster being raised on an Iowa farm, and he credits his mentor, the late Dr. Lloyd Bates, a veterinarian in Union, for further fueling his passion and instilling in him a hard work ethic.

Kaisand served as assistant state veterinarian for six years before transitioning to the head role following his predecessor’s retirement. Prior to joining IDALS, Kaisand spent 13 years at Iowa Select Farms, and worked for a mixed-animal practice in central Iowa.

He earned both a bachelor’s degree in animal science and doctorate in veterinary medicine from Iowa State University.

Kaisand has a deep level of understanding when it comes to the needs and values of farmers—because he is one himself. He raises cattle, sheep, and chickens, and grows corn, soybeans, and hay in rural Union.

“I think it helps me understand agriculture firsthand, both the economics, what producers are going through, and their own challenges,” he says.

Kaisand and his wife, Heidi, have three children: Henry, a 2022 high school graduate, and twins Goldie and Virginia, high school juniors.

Dr. Max Rothschild — Iowa State University


World-renowned genetics leader Dr. Max Rothschild began his journey at Iowa State University (ISU) in 1980. He joined as an assistant professor in the Animal Breeding and Genetics Group of the Department of Animal Science, focusing primarily on pigs.

Under the mentorship of the late Dr. Lauren Christian, he embarked on numerous swine breeding research projects using ISU’s swine breeding farm near Madrid. His first few years were spent looking at the role of feet and leg structure in pigs. At that time, pigs were being raised on concrete instead of dirt.

Over the next four decades, Rothschild’s career evolved from quantitative genetics and disease resistance to molecular genetics and gene mapping. Fascinated with pigs from other countries, Rothschild was part of a team that helped import 144 Chinese pigs to the United States in 1989, an effort supported by the Iowa Pork Producers Association. Some of those pigs landed at ISU for research and led to Rothschild discovering the estrogen receptor gene and its effect on litter size.

His work in the last 20-plus years centered on finding other genes associated with growth rate, feed efficiency, and meat quality. Many of the genes documented by Rothschild and his research group are now used in breeding to improve pig performance.

In the early 2000s, Rothschild’s interest expanded to Africa, where he has worked on food security issues, aiding people in raising livestock for sustainable livelihoods.

Rothschild started working with pigs in the early 1970s when he was an undergraduate at the University of California, Davis campus. Wanting some spending money, he took a job at the campus swine farm, which had a small herd of Duroc sows. He received a bachelor’s in animal science from there in 1974; master’s in animal science from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wis., in 1975; and doctorate in animal breeding from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., in 1978.

Reflecting on his career, Rothschild attributes his success to being surrounded by outstanding colleagues and students. He continues to serve as a mentor for former students.

Since retiring in 2020, Rothschild keeps busy fishing, reading, traveling, and volunteering in the Ames community. He and his wife Denise have two grown children, Louise and Daniel.

Dr. Ken Stalder — Iowa State University (awarded posthumously)


The late Dr. Ken Stalder dedicated much of his life to improving the lives of pigs and the lives of the people working with the animals. Today, his legacy lives on in those who considered him a mentor, colleague, collaborator, and friend.

Stalder, 59, of Huxley, died unexpectedly in October 2022. At the time of his passing, Stalder was an animal science professor at Iowa State University (ISU) in Ames.

Stalder was known around the globe for his producer-focused research, and ability to create teaching and learning programs. According to those who knew him, he was driven to provide solutions to key challenges and issues affecting the pork industry, from piglet livability to lameness and sow farm productivity. Stalder was also passionate about finding ways to integrate new technologies, like precision livestock farming.

Stalder developed many tools to assist swine producers, including a poster series explaining how to evaluate feet and leg soundness, reproductive soundness, and body condition score among sows. The posters have reached thousands in the United States, and have been used in countries like China, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark.

Colleagues agree that Stalder had a knack for bringing together groups with common goals and interests in animal agriculture. He established a large network of collaborations not just at ISU, but with other U.S. universities, commodity groups, government research agencies, private industry, and international organizations.

In addition, he played a vital role in developing future industry leaders, says Jason Ross, chairman of ISU’s Department of Animal Science. Stalder trained master’s, doctoral, and post-graduate students, nearly all of whom have made significant contributions to the swine industry. And he wasn’t just a mentor for students—he guided and supported faculty members, too, particularly new hires.

Stalder grew up on a small, diversified farm in southeast Iowa. He received a bachelor’s degree in animal science from ISU in 1987, and a master’s in agriculture from Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky., in 1992. He returned to ISU to earn a doctorate in animal breeding and genetics with a minor in immunobiology in 1995, and began working at the university in 2003.

Stalder is survived by his wife Cheryl; three children, Lauren (Ryan) Vincent, Sam, and William; and grandkids Emily and Elijah.