By Connor Lynch
KEMPTVILLE — He was an international ambassador for Ontario agriculture, particularly for cattle; an endlessly energetic, outrageously knowledgeable speaker; and an Ontario agricultural hall of famer.
Robert Lang died last month at Ottawa General Hospital at age 74 after a brief illness.
Born in 1944, Lang had a long and prolific career in Canadian agriculture. Despite the advances he made for the sector, particularly in growing the market for Ontario cattle genetics across the globe, he spent much of his time out of the country, furthering Canadian aims abroad.
Lang had only completed Grade 9 but was accepted into Kemptville College and graduated in 1964.
Straight out of university, Dairy consultant Jack Rodenburg, who now runs DairyLogix in Western Ontario, was hired on to work under Lang at OMAFRA. Though they didn’t work closely, Rodenburg, who’s no slouch himself in the dairy sector, was a great admirer of Lang’s work.
Lang was a highly-organized and incisive worker, with a keen eye for spotting areas to improve. “I think anyone in government that works hard and makes a contribution, makes difficult decisions, ends up being in line for criticism,” Rodenburg said, adding that Lang would go to bat for those in the line of fire.
Former dairy farmer Denis St. Pierre met Lang on the speakers’ circuit about seven years ago. “I never met a man with so much knowledge, who had travelled so much, knew so much about ag.”
Lang was recognized for it back in 2017, when he was inducted into the Ontario Ag Hall of Fame for his outstanding contributions to genetic improvement and developing new markets for Canadian livestock. One of his achievements recognized by the nomination was his development of the first computer-based dairy cattle feed formulation system to maximize cost-effective use of feed on dairy farms. Computers are increasingly synonymous with dairy farming these days, but it wasn’t always so, and Lang played a significant role in using them to benefit dairy farmers.
Lang had a long and prolific career including as OMAFRA dairy cattle specialist; associate manager of Eastern Breeders Inc. (1979-1986); president of the Ontario Association of Animal Breeders (1981 to 1986); and was founder of the International Livestock Management School. He served as its executive director from 1986-2001. He travelled extensively with the school, visiting 150 countries and setting up projects in many of them, providing expertise in animal breeding and genetics abroad.
Said Rodenburg: “One of the things that was really important in foreign markets was to provide educational support for genetics acquisition. I think that’s where he really shone.”
Lang wasn’t a tall man, but was introduced as a giant in the cattle industry at his induction ceremony to the hall of fame. He told the gathered crowd: “I really have to say, this is the first time in my life I’ve ever been called a giant.”
Lang is survived by his wife Elaine, children Chris, Jennifer, Rebecca and Ben, and his nine grandchildren.
International dairy champion Bob Lang dead at 74
By Connor Lynch