Alex McDonald was 26 when he emigrated from Scotland to the United States in 1905. His first job was with a beef cattle herd in Iowa.
The University Farm at Davis hired Alex as its first herdsman in 1911 and put him in charge of all livestock and horses. As the herds and flocks were expanded, more help was hired and Alex devoted the next 34 years of his career to beef cattle. He was to become one of the Farm's greatest assets, bringing much honor and wide recognition to the Farm and the Animal Husbandry Department in particular.
Alex knew the type of beef animal the market wanted and had unusual skill in fitting animals that won awards at the leading livestock shows. At the Chicago International Livestock Exposition, the largest show of its kind, Alex won three Grand Champion awards with animals bred, fed, and fitted at the Farm.
Widely respected as a beef cattle judge, he officiated at many important shows in the US and Canada, including the Hereford show at the 1939 Treasure Island World's Fair where some classes numbered more than 100 animals.
During Alex's career, most of the students in Animal Husbandry were from ranches and farms. They enrolled in 'hands-on' courses and, after 2 years, returned home. Students liked this man - his manners, humor, willingness to share his knowledge of beef cattle, and 'good housekeeping' habits made him an excellent role model. His animals were fed, the stalls cleaned and bedded, and the barn ready for inspection by 10 AM.
Alex enjoyed much respect from cattlemen, some of whom sought his advice for upgrading their breeding herds. When he retired from the University in 1947 he became Field Representative for the American Hereford Association.
This outstanding herdsman, showman, and beef cattle judge amply demonstrated that a lack of formal education can be overcome by reading, home study, keen observation, and determination.