Earlier this month, I had the distinct pleasure of watching Ronnie Green be installed as the 20th Chancellor of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. As I sat there with my wife Darla, I reflected on my time at the University of Nebraska and the impact it has had on my life both personally and professionally.
I graduated from Rock County High School in 1967 and had very little idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I decided I might as well follow the footsteps of both my mother and father, as well as two older siblings, and attend the University of Nebraska in Lincoln with the end goal of going to law school. I also decided to join a fraternity, Delta Tau Delta, that both my father and older brother had belonged to. Those 4 and half years in Lincoln, as well the semester I took off when I joined the Army National Guard and went to basic training, were great for me. I could meet people from totally different backgrounds and see the world beyond North Central Nebraska.
During my junior year, I made the decision to go back to the ranch after graduation, primarily because I wanted to build our herd of registered Hereford cattle. Without a doubt this decision was one of the best I ever made. The other great decision I made then was to marry Darla Myers whom I would never have met if I hadn’t ventured to Lincoln!
Having come from a family that believed very strongly in continuing education, Nebraska Extension has been a centerpiece in helping us make good business decisions about how to manage our land, cattle and people. Through the years, the Extension educators like George Cammack, Denny Bauer, Don Adams, Rick Rasby, Doug Clark, Jim Gosey and Walt Schacht (I could go on and on) have had a positive impact. They taught us to take a systems approach and realize how every individual part, grazing, cattle breeding, people management, marketing, and in the end profitability, all tie together.
The Nebraska Ranch Practicum, a three-season, hands-on educational program designed to give participants the skills and education needed in today’s complex ranching industry, is one example of a program that has shaped how we do things at Shovel Dot ranch. Natural resources, livestock management and economic reality are integrated throughout the Practicum. My son, an employee, and I have attended through the years and have always come away with a better knowledge of ranch management.
The University’s Gudmundsen Ranch, located near Whitman has been another source of valuable information for us to make better decisions. We have been there numerous times, to look at the research they are doing and to see what we can apply to our own operation. Another University owned and managed property just north of us is the Barta Ranch. Much of what they do is centered around grazing management and presently in one of our grazing cells, a 13-pasture rotation, we are using the “Barta System”.
A good example of research that has positively affected all of agriculture, as well as our state’s economy, has been the work that Terry Klopfenstein and Galen Ericson have done regarding the use of co-products, coming from ethanol production, in the cow calf, backgrounding, and feedlot segments of beef production. In our case, the use of those products, have had a big impact on our profitability.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Nebraska 4-H, a university managed program that empowers youth to reach their full potential working and learning in partnership with caring adults. My siblings and I, as well as my two children, were 4-H participants. Problem solving, responsibility, citizenship, and leadership are just a few of the skills gained through 4-H.
I could go on and on about how the University of Nebraska, and specifically the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, has impacted me both personally and professionally. I’m sure there are ways, no matter what your profession or stage in life that our state land-grant university has positively affected you. At least for me, to the University of Nebraska, I would like to say, thank you!
During his remarks, Ronnie made reference to Nebraska being located in the middle of everywhere and everything. He’s absolutely right. We are blessed to call Nebraska home and I’m excited to watch our state continue to grow and lead from America’s heartland.