By Olivia Norton ’16
As a young man, Dr. Frank Craddock never questioned the direction his career path would take. He did not, however, foresee the far-reaching impression he would make on the animal science industry and Texas A&M Agrilife Extension during his career.
After 29 years with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and the Department of Animal Science, Craddock is retiring from his post as Professor and Extension Sheep and Goat Specialist stationed in San Angelo.
Craddock credits his early years spent on his family’s central Texas sheep, goat and cattle ranch and his heavy involvement in local 4-H and FFA with leading him in this direction. The decision to attend Texas A&M was an easy one, so in 1967 Craddock packed his bags and made his way to Aggieland in pursuit of a degree in animal science. During his time as a student, Craddock was a member of both the wool and livestock judging teams.
Upon graduating in 1971, Craddock set his sights on pursuing a career in Extension work.
“When I went to interview for a county Extension agent position, I learned that obtaining a master’s degree was required,” Craddock said. “So at that point, I made the decision to leave A&M and head to the University of Wyoming to begin work on graduate studies.”
During his time in Wyoming, Craddock worked in the meat science department and in 1973 received his master’s degree in animal science with an emphasis in meat science.
About the time Craddock finished his master’s degree, Texas A&M was calling once gain.
“As an undergraduate at Texas A&M, I worked in the Wool and Mohair Laboratory under Dr. Jim Bassett,” Craddock said. “He called me when I finished at Wyoming and informed me that there was a position open as a research associate running the Wool and Mohair Laboratory and that there would be an opportunity to work on my Ph.D., as well.”
Five years later with his doctorate in hand, Craddock returned to Wyoming where he took the position of Wyoming Sheep and Wool Specialist and remained there from 1978 to 1981.
In 1981, Craddock returned, once again to Texas to join the faculty at Texas Tech University, where he taught the basic animal science course, the sheep and goat production course, senior seminar, and coached the livestock and wool judging teams. After a six-year stint as an assistant professor within the Animal Science Department at Texas Tech, Craddock was offered one of two Texas sheep and goat specialist positions stationed at the Texas A&M Center in Uvalde.
In 1992, following the retirement of the second specialist, Dr. George Ahlschwede, the decision was made to consolidate the two jobs. Craddock was awarded this position and moved to the Research and Extension Center in San Angelo where he spent the remainder of his career as the sole Texas Sheep and Goat Specialist.
“I never really set out to go this far but the right opportunities presented themselves at the right times,” Craddock said. “Sheep and goats have always had a soft spot in my heart so I have been very fortunate to end up where I am.”
The job description of a state specialist has many technical duties but Craddock’s career is storied with years of reaching out to both youth and adults in the sheep and goat industry. While he works with both young and old enthusiast, he has spent a notable amount of time enriching the lives of youth with an interest in the sheep and goat industry.
Day to day youth activities have included officiating judging and showmanship contests at the county, regional, state and national levels; helping conduct lamb and goat showmanship camps; and supporting roles in stock shows around the state. But one of his most influential accomplishments has been his involvement in the Texas Lamb and Goat Validation Program. This includes validating all market lambs, market goats and breeding sheep and traveling to stock shows to insure all ownership is correctly documented.
Craddock’s history with judging programs is rich, as he has previously coached both a national champion collegiate livestock judging team and a five-time national champion wool judging team, as well as a state champion 4-H livestock judging team. Throughout the years, he has supported the 4-H Wool and Mohair Youth Judging Program, Texas 4-H Round Up, the Texas Sheep and Goat Youth Leadership Workshop, and the National 4-H and FFA Wool Judging Contests.
“The job of a specialist, in my opinion, is to support the county agents,” Craddock said. “ Anytime they want to put on a program, show or contest I am there to assist them in successfully accomplishing these events.”
Beyond youth show and judging programs, Craddock mentors up and coming professionals in the sheep and goat industry through his Extension Sheep and Goat Assistant Program. Students pursuing a master’s degree at San Angelo State University with a sheep and goat interest have the opportunity to work with Craddock over a period of three years to learn how to manage the duties of a specialist along with maintaining a tradition of excellence in youth work.
“One of the beauties of the specialist job is every day is different,” Craddock said. “Just one ring of the telephone can change your whole day.”
Craddock has partnered with several other experts in the animal science field to educate both producers and consumers on current issues within the industry. This includes the Internal Parasite Management program, run with the help of Dr. Rick Machen, Professor and Extension Livestock Specialist, to raise awareness on the proper prevention and treatment of parasites that are prevalent during wet years. In more recent years, his education programs have addressed drought conditions.
“One of the challenges we have faced in the industry in past years has been drought,” Craddock said. “But we have had programs in place to help producers efficiently downsize during the drought and now as we come out of it, rebuild and restock again.”
Craddock has seen the sheep and goat industry through a series of ups and downs but when asked, some of the accomplishments he is most proud of have come out of these times.
“I really enjoyed the work I did as the meat goat and hair sheep industries have continued to evolve,” Craddock recalled. “Mr. Preston Faris, retired Sutton County Extension Agent, and I conducted the Judges Certification Program for the American Boar Goat Association for many years. I also planned and conducted the North American Hair Sheep Symposium that was held in San Angelo in 2005.
Another notable outcome of Craddock’s work within the industry is the development of the Pasture to Packer program, designed much like the Ranch to Rail program in the beef industry. During its 12 year span, producers would bring in 15 to 30 head of their sheep to a feedlot in order to collect growth and carcass data. These values were then analyzed and were used as feedback for the producers to encourage genetic improvement within their flocks.
Another genetic improvement program was the Texas Rambouillet Superior Genetics Program in which top producers sent their top ewes to a central location to produce elite offspring to improve their breeding programs.
Over the years Craddock has assisted the National Lamb Feeders Association in continuing six Sheep Industry Leadership Schools. Participants from all over the U.S. attended these 4-day schools to increase their knowledge and understanding of the changing sheep industry.
Craddock’s efforts have been recognized far beyond the producers or youth he supports and they will continue to leave their mark on the animal science industry. He has received multiple honors and awards such as serving as the President of the San Angelo Livestock Show and Rodeo Association, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Superior Service’s Superior Unit Award, Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers’ Association Fred T. Earwood Memorial Award, National Lamb Feeders Association Appreciation Award, Texas County Agricultural Agents Association Specialist of the Year Award, Texas Tech University Aggie Council Outstanding Teaching Award and Texas Tech University Collegiate FFA Outstanding Professor Award.
While Craddock is retiring August 31 and returning with his wife, Fayrene, to the Texas Hill Country where they both grew up, he plans to stay involved in the industry that he has spent decades supporting.
Olivia Norton ’16 is a sophomore animal science major from Texarkana, Texas.
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.