Dr. Raymond “Ray” P. Ansotegui was the consummate ambassador to the cowboy way of life. He supported the future of ranching by balancing the best of tradition with the newest research. From an early age, Ray was fascinated by the wisdom his grandfather and others shared about lessons they had learned about ranching. Whether it was as a professor, judging fairs, giving lectures, managing stock at the Livingston Roundup Rodeo, or establishing an essay contest to donate well-bred rescued bummer calves to two local 4-H students, who might not otherwise have means for a project animal, he never lost that curiosity throughout his life. Ray was always instilling confidence into youth who would become the next generation of cattlewomen and men. His contributions to ranching in Montana and beyond are unquantifiable.
Ray, a Spanish Basque, was born July 11, 1947, spending his early years on the family ranch in Paradise Valley, Nevada. He loved school and could not wait to be a cowboy. Ray embraced the beauty of being horseback without any sign of civilization for miles around. His family moved to Fallon, Nevada so Ray could attend high school. Fallon, a farming community, found Ray working on his family ranch, the neighbor’s dairy, and the family lumber yard. Ray never missed a day of school from kindergarten through high school. He was the first in his family to attend college and was honored to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science and a Master’s Degree in Range Nutrition from the University of Nevada Reno. He earned his doctorate from New Mexico State University in Ruminant Nutrition and Reproductive Physiology. Education became his work and ultimately a lifelong passion. He would often refer to himself as an “Over Educated Cowboy.”
In 1972, Ray married Linda Bilbao. The couple moved to Livingston, Montana, in 1975 where he worked briefly for American Breeder’s Service before accepting a one time, one year position at Montana State University (MSU). One year at MSU stretched into thirty-two years where Ray won numerous teaching awards and led groundbreaking research for the university.
Ray’s significant influential research studies focused on Cow/Calf Nutrition, Range Forage Utilization, Estrous Synchronization, and Trace Mineral Nutrition. A great deal of his research data was collected in the field where he treasured the marriage of science and cowboy life. Ray taught thirty different courses at MSU, advised countless extraordinary graduate students, and each year personally advised 20 to 25 students and served on four to five graduate student committees. Ray was frequently called out as a student and staff favorite, including the Western Section American Society of Animal Science Distinguished Teacher Award. (Comprehensive list of awards and publications at the link below.)