The other day, I was asked what it is exactly that I do as a Texas A&M Extension livestock specialist. My short answer that usually satisfies the person asking the question, is that I support county Extension agent activities in animal science, help in their educational programs, conduct ranch visits and respond to information requests from them. In Texas, we are fortunate that every county has at least one CEA usually with a responsibility in agriculture and natural resources, like Victoria’s Matt Bochat.
In real life, I work with Extension agents from Beaumont to Del Rio and south to Brownsville, and occasionally farther north. These agents conduct one to two (often more) educational programs in livestock management (usually beef cattle) annually and, more likely as not, I will be asked to present information at meetings. Topics are suggested by producers and include nutrition and feeding the cowherd (especially in the winter), bull selection and fertility testing, pregnancy testing cows, improving return in value of the calf for sale, herd health management (Victoria and surrounding counties have an abundance of good cattle veterinarians) to name a few. Occasionally, I am asked to give an update on a “hot topic” or a breaking issue. In the past, these would include topics such as use of mechanically deboned meat (the poorly named “pink slime”) or the cattle fever tick eradication program. If you’ve been to one of these programs you can probably name several topics that have been covered.
But I have other responsibilities too. I work with both the Independent Cattlemen Association and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association in their educational meetings, several beef breed associations on their genetic improvement programs, the Texas Beef Council, and several feedyards and Kane STX Beef to collect carcass data for individual ranches. Last week, I helped a group of extension agents conduct a two-day reproduction workshop that included a lot of “hands-on” cow work.
Working with extension agents and livestock producers is something that I have really enjoyed for the past 33 years and still enjoy very much. Even though we raise cattle, visiting with other cattle producers is not only an enjoyable but also an educational experience, especially for me if not for them. To do all this, I do drive many miles each week and see a lot of country – pastures and cattle – and have seen changes in grazing and breeds over the years. And I intend to do it for a few years more.
That’s what an Extension Livestock Specialist does.