Educational tour brings Animal Science students to the Beef Capital of the World
TEXAS PANHANDLE − Hereford, Texas, is one of six major cities located within the Texas Panhandle and is known as the “Beef Capital of the World.” This town, deeply rooted in cattle and agriculture, also was one of the many places visited by a group of Texas A&M University Animal Science students traveling the High Plains region while studying the many aspects of beef cattle production.
This group of Aggies departed College Station on May 13, 2012, and set out on the inaugural Jim Theeck ’65 Beef Cattle Seminar Tour. Designed as a May-mester course, the tour led seven undergraduate and six graduate students along with Dr. Tryon Wickersham, associate professor; Dr. Jason Sawyer, associate professor; Dr. Bill Mies, visiting professor; and Donna Witt, animal science academic advisor, on a 5-day educational tour of Texas ranches, cattle feeding and grain processing operations, feedlots, a packing plant, an ethanol plant, a brokerage firm, a dairy, visits with key beef cattle businesses regarding employment and internships and concluded with a brief stop at the famous Cadillac Ranch.
Wickersham, who serves as one of the instructors of the course, said the goal of the tour was to take these students inside the beef industry to provide them with a greater understanding of what they’ve already learned in the classroom.
“There is no greater scale of beef cattle facilities in the world than in the Texas Panhandle. We wanted to give these students a look at the entire beef industry from cow/calf to harvest, and the heavy concentration of facilities in this region made this possible, Wickersham said.
“This experience gave our students the opportunity to see every phase of the beef cattle industry, showed them the possible jobs that may be available to them after graduation and allowed them to network with industry leaders and professionals.”
Along the way, each student kept a journal of each visit. “Before each stop, we’d talk about what we wanted them to gain from that stop and things they might think about asking and consider about that visit. As we moved on through the trip, we tried to relate the previous stop to the next, compare them and see how they work together,” Wickersham said.
Jessie C. Hoffman, a junior from Kenedy, Texas, said this was her first time to really see how the Texas beef industry works. Growing up in Billings, Montana, Hoffman said that Texas is a lot different from her home state and this trip gave her a new appreciation of how big the beef industry’s impact is on the entire state.
“This trip added to my perspective of the Texas beef industry. The Panhandle is more than just feedlots, it’s so much bigger,” she said. “The Texas beef industry is like a puzzle, each person, along with their talents, fit together to make it work. Each of the different professions we visited interact with each other and build off of another’s successes. Without each piece, it wouldn’t work the way it does. Our future, as students of animal science, is to fill in the many roles that make up each piece.”
Seeing the different aspects of the beef industry, Hoffman has a new confidence about getting a degree in animal science.
“It is motivating to see the variety of ways in which I will be able to use my degree. Being able to get a first-hand look into the many aspects of the industry was very beneficial and insightful.”
Jim Theeck ‘65 Endowment
The Jim Theeck ’65 Beef Cattle Seminar Tour was possible thanks to a generous gift made to the Texas A&M Foundation in memory of a man who played a significant role in the progression of the Texas beef industry and who was known nationwide as a cattle industry expert. The Jim Theeck ’65 Endowment was established by the George and Anne Butler Foundation to be used to provide a beef cattle seminar course for students administered by the Department of Animal Science.
While at Mayfair, Theeck set the standard for the modern day Brahman x Hereford F1. He developed one of the nation’s first commercial replacement female sales using Brahman x Hereford F1s and Brahman x Angus F1s both crossed with Santa Gertrudis bulls. One of his true passions was developing a market for heifer calves.
“In the 1970s, when he was putting this cross breeding program together, most cattleman took a discount on heifer calves at the auction barn. Because of his foresight, many breeders adopted his plan and marketed the heifer calves for a premium over the steer calves,” said Allen Grainger, grandson of the Butlers.
In addition, Theeck spoke widely about the importance of marketing purebred cattle to commercial cattlemen, started and conducted both local and national 4-H and FFA youth programs, bred several national champion bulls and females and ran a highly successful commercial operation of his own called Walking T Cattle Company.
Over the years, Theeck became a major influence in the lives of this family, including Allison Grainger, great-granddaughter of the Butlers and current student at Texas A&M studying agribusiness with a minor in Spanish.
“Mr. Theeck was a part of my life from the day I was born. He was my next-door neighbor, my close family friend, my go-to-man for beef industry advice, and above all, one of my greatest influences,” she said.
After Theeck passed away in 2011, Allison said her family searched for the best way to honor a man who was such an important figure in the beef industry world and in their lives.
“As a cattleman, as an Aggie, and as an individual with such high regard for education, this option seemed the most fitting,”she said.
To the Graingers, using the Jim Theeck Endowment towards the establishment of the Beef Seminar Tour provided a way to combine Theeck’s appreciation for education and his belief that youth learn best from experience.
“One of Jim Theeck’s missions in life was to educate youth, whether that be in the importance of a strong work ethic and family values, in our nation’s necessity of a successful agriculture industry, or in the growing opportunities and challenges of raising beef cattle. He believed in Texas A&M’s education system, but he also believed in learning from experience. The beef seminar tour combines both forms.”
“We were pleased not only with the quality of the participants but with the diversity of opportunities provided to them through this tour. Jim Theeck would certainly be proud of the education benefits of this tour and its ties to the beef industry as it currently operates,” she added.
The Jim Theeck ’65 Beef Seminar Tour will be offered every May for students interested in learning firsthand how the beef industry operates.
For more information and photos from the 2012 Jim Theeck ’65 Beef Cattle Seminar Tour, visit the group’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/tamuanscpanhandletour.
For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Courtney Coufal at firstname.lastname@example.org or (979) 845-1542.