Dr. Andy Herring, professor and holder of the John K. Riggs ’41 Beef Cattle Professorship in the Department of Animal Science, grew up near Talpa, Texas, on the border of Runnels and Coleman counties on a ranch that has been in his family since 1886. He earned his first dollar mowing his neighbor’s lawn, although he worked on the ranch with his dad long before then. It was not until later in life that his dad actually paid him for his help. Andy does credit his parents as being the most important mentors to him, even if he did not realize that as a teenager!
His deep seeded agricultural roots and growing up around livestock are what influenced him to major in animal science at Tarleton State University. After completing his bachelor’s degree, he came to Texas A&M to pursue a master’s degree in animal breeding so he could go back to the family ranch. Andy’s plans changed when Dr. Jim Sanders, professor of animal breeding and genetics, his academic mentor, told him he needed to get his Ph.D.
Thanks to Sander’s guidance, Andy has been a faculty member in the department since 2002. His research focuses on increasing efficiency in beef cattle production from a systems perspective, which means looking at how different factors (genetics, nutrition, reproduction, health, management, etc.) work together for overall improvements. Andy says the best thing about his job is seeing the expression on someone’s face, student or producer, when they understand something for the first time and the worst pitfall being not having enough time to do everything he wants to do.
When asked about the highlights of his life, Andy said there are two that come to mind. When he was 18 months old, Andy was bitten on his right hand by a rattlesnake in their yard. His father was away judging a show at the time, leaving his mother to take care of business. After rushing Andy to the hospital, doctors wanted to amputate his arm. His parents told them no. To this day, Andy’s arm works fine. The other highlight of his life is his family. Being married to his wife Kim and their three children, Sydney, Cole and Allie.
During the fall of 2016, Andy and his family had the opportunity of a lifetime, spending three months abroad in South Africa. The trip came about when Andy was asked to be a visiting professor in the Department of Animal and Wildlife Sciences at the University of Pretoria, in Pretoria. While there, Andy conducted lectures for the fourth-year Animal Breeding class and provided seminars on some of his research to their faculty and graduate students. Andy is currently in the process of establishing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the TAMU Department of Animal Science and the department in Pretoria that will lead to student and possibly faculty exchanges in the future.
Andy says the whole trip would not have happened if his family would not have been able to come along. Having them there added to the experience because it was a great learning opportunity for everyone. His oldest daughter, Sydney, is a current animal science student and was able to participate in a unique veterinary based internship while there.
Something he noticed while in South Africa, is that people are the same worldwide, but governments and how they operate are drastically different. And in case you are wondering what South Africa looks like, much of it resembles Texas.
Andy said they did not experiment too much when it came to some of the exotic foods available, but they did try lots of different biltong, which is their style of dried meat (similar to beef jerky). Some of the more notable varieties they tried were wildebeest, ostrich and kudu. According to Andy, South Africans cook outdoors a majority of the time, called braai. He said the meats, cheese and tomato sandwiches prepared this way were excellent.
While the university was on holiday, Andy and his family had some time to tour the countryside. They traveled to many different cattle and wildlife ranches, however, Kruger National Park was the highlight of the trip. They saw many elephants, including an impressive herd of 25 coming to water, three sets of lions, two jaguars, and numerous buffalo, impala, sable, wildebeest, giraffes, kudu, baboons, monkeys, and probably 200 species of birds. The other notable place Andy and his family visited was Cape Town on the southwest coast. They especially enjoyed the spectacular scenery at the Table Mountain National Park.
When not traveling the world or doing research, Andy enjoys outdoor activities, learning about history and antique shopping. His favorite activity is clearing brush with his tractor.
For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Maggie Tucker at firstname.lastname@example.org or (979) 845-1542.