William Bickert Obituary
Dr. William "Bill" Bickert photos 1939.  Billy. 2 years 8 months old. Barb, 6 weeks old. Picture taken at their house on the cattle ranch where Bill's father and grandfather raised Angus beef.

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In Memory of

Dr. William "Bill" Bickert

April 9, 1937 - February 1, 2017
Obituary

Dr. William George Bickert passed peacefully on February 1, 2017 in his home after a long battle with Parkinson 's disease. He was surrounded by loving family as he passed. Bill was an amazing and loving husband, father, brother, grandfather and great grandfather. His loving support ,caring nature, and sense of humor will be greatly missed. For forty-five years Bill served in numerous capacities as a professor within the Agricultural Engineering Department at Michigan State University: instructor, extension educator, researcher, and mentor. Today, walking onto a modern-day dairy, you don't have to look far to find the impact he had...
Dr. William George Bickert passed peacefully on February 1, 2017 in his home after a long battle with Parkinson 's disease. He was surrounded by loving family as he passed. Bill was an amazing and loving husband, father, brother, grandfather and great grandfather. His loving support ,caring nature, and sense of humor will be greatly missed.

For forty-five years Bill served in numerous capacities as a professor within the Agricultural Engineering Department at Michigan State University: instructor, extension educator, researcher, and mentor. Today, walking onto a modern-day dairy, you don't have to look far to find the impact he had on the global dairy industry.

In the early part of his career, Bill taught courses in the area of agricultural electrification. The consummate educator with expectations of perfection and excellence, he was once given a box of red pencils by a student who was sure Bill needed more considering the amount of red marks he applied to students' papers. During the early 1970s, Bill with a team of graduate students developed the first automatic milking machine detacher (patented) and other milking parlor innovations that reduced the drudgery of milking cows and increased per person cow milking productivity three fold. In addition to human benefits, the automatic detacher benefited cows as well since over or under milking was reduced.

Throughout the eighties, Bill pioneered strategies and designs for the modern day embodiment of naturally ventilated freestall facilities and transition cow housing, which included overall facility layout, freestall environment, stall design, and stall base options. Each of these developments resulted in increased cow health and increased producer profitability. Nearly all of the most modern dairy facilities today utilize some form of naturally ventilated housing system. Also, starting in 1980 with Bill's leadership, the Michigan Ag Expo was held on the Michigan State campus at what is now known as the Ag Expo site. Ag Expo has gone on to be the largest agricultural exposition in the region. Bill served as the Chairman of Michigan Ag Expo until 1994.

Bill was a member of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) where he served on many dairy housing related technical committees. He was widely published in ASABE, The Merck Veterinary Manual as well as a regular contributor in the popular dairy press.

Throughout the 1990s to present, Bill's focus was on manure management and how it relates to overall dairy production systems as well as society as a whole. With the widespread acceptance of sand bedding as a freestall base came a host of manure handling challenges. Bill along with graduate students developed a system for separating sand from manure (patented) and strategies for handling sand-laden manure, which resulted in the often referenced publication "Storing and Handling Sand-Laden Manure-a Description of Manageable Practices for Midwest Farms". Just prior to his retirement, Bill worked to mainstream the concept of integrated manure systems along with common sense approaches for helping dairy producers coexist with neighbors.

In addition to dairy cows, Bill loved and was concerned for all animals' welfare. His dream for retirement was to live in the middle of 40 acres and raise cattle. He built his dream home in 2007, but raised Puerto Rican Paso Fino horses instead of cattle. He enjoyed his horses immensely, and rode until he was not able. He also loved spending time with his dog Scarlett and later with Rana.

He will be greatly missed for his sense of humor, sharp mind, humility, and a great love for family, life, cooking and getting his hands dirty on the farm. His living survivors include: Juliet and Gretchen Bickert, his daughters, his wife Rosie Spagnuolo Bickert, and her two sons, Michael and Daniel, who became his sons. Grandchildren listed by age include: Joshua, Amanda, Shana, Lucas, Jason Daniel, Gavin and Cody. Great grandchildren include: Kyron, Juliana, Hailey, and Leo.

A Funeral Mass will take place at 11:00 am Saturday, February 4, 2017 at the Catholic Community of St. Jude, 801 N. Bridge St., DeWitt, MI with visitation one hour prior. The family will also receive visitors Friday from 6-8 pm at the church. The Rosary will be prayed at 7:30 Friday. In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Bill may be made to Great Lakes Caring Hospice. The family is being served by Gorsline Runciman Funeral Homes, DeWitt Chapel. Memories and condolences may be shared with the family at www.grdewitt.com.

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