Lawaetz Award for Senepol Cattle Research Given to UVI’s Robert Godfrey

Robert Godfrey, Ph.D.

The Senepol Cattle Breeders Association has awarded the Fritz E. Lawaetz Award to Robert Godfrey, Ph.D., director of the Agricultural Experiment Station and Professor of Animal Science, at a meeting held on Aug. 8-11 on St Croix.

The International Senepol Symposium held at the Buccaneer Hotel commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Senepol breed.

Dr. Godfrey’s award, named after Fritz E. Lawaetz, a former senator and early pioneer on St. Croix for the Senepol breed, recognizes his many years of service to the Senepol cattle breed. Through Lawaetz’s work as one of the early forerunners on St. Croix, he helped establish the Senepol breed and make it an internationally recognized tropical breed of cattle.

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Godfrey acknowledged that he has had a lot of help over the years conducting research on the Senepol cattle. “I consider the award for the team not just me,” said Dr. Godfrey. “It helps validate that we are doing valuable research.”

The honor of the award is shared with Henry Nelthropp, Adam Weis, Whitney Preston, Christy Ketring, Sue Lakos, Willie Gonzales and Jose Torres.

Since 1998, Dr. Godfrey’s research program has received funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to evaluate external parasite burdens, heat tolerance and adaptation to the tropical climate, production traits and the temperament of Senepol cattle.

UVI has been doing research on the Senepol cattle under the guidance of Dr. Godfrey since 1995. The Gasperi family donated a herd to the university for research in 2006. The UVI herd is registered with the Senepol Cattle Breeders Association.

Godfrey first worked with cattle at Kansas State University, then later in graduate school at Texas A&M University. At UVI, his research specialties include reproductive physiology, cattle, sheep, environmental physiology, production agriculture, genetics and sustainable agriculture.

The Agricultural Experiment Station’s Animal Science Division managed by Godfrey aims to conduct basic and applied research geared towards increasing production and improving efficiency and sustainability of livestock production in the tropics.

Through his research, Dr. Godfrey hopes to develop the Senepol farm to better manage the cows and the land. To do this, he plans to increase the fencing quantity and quality, and develop better water and grass management, which will hopefully lead to an increase in herd size from its current status of 58 mother cows.

The environmental conditions found in the Caribbean and local ranchers have led to the development of both a domestic and international market for these animals. The cows have good maternal traits, and both bulls and cows are naturally polled and have a calm temperament.

Senepol cattle were bred 100 years ago on St. Croix.

In 1977, a plane carrying 22 Senepols left for the U.S. mainland; 35 years later, the Senepol Cattle Breeders Association (SCBA) recognizes breeders from many countries and more than 60,000 animals in its database. Today, Senepols can be found thriving in eight states in the United States and around the world in such countries as Australia, Brazil, Paraguay, Columbia, Argentina, Panama, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico, Costa Rica, Phillipines, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

In 1940, Sen. Fritz E. Lawaetz became the general manager of Estate Annaly. He later developed it into the 1,500 head strong Annaly Farms. Soon after, he founded the Virgin Islands organization that would eventually became the internationally recognized Senepol Cattle Breeders Association.

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