ONTARIO, Ore. — Eastern Oregon livestock producers say they’re excited about working with Oregon State University’s new livestock and rangeland extension agent in Malheur County.
The position, which had remained vacant for almost two years ago, was filled Feb. 18 by Sergio Arispe, who has a Ph.D. in animal biology, a master’s of science degree in agricultural education and bachelor’s degree in animal science.
“He’s extremely, extremely qualified,” said Jordan Valley rancher Bob Skinner, past president of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association.
Skinner said Arispe hit the ground running.
“One of the things that really impressed me about him is his energy,” he said. “You can just feel the energy when you get around him. I’m very encouraged after having visited with and talked to him a couple of times.”
Arispe said one of his main goals is finding ways to reduce the impact of feed prices on cattle and dairy producers. That will include looking at alternative feeds such as potatoes and barley.
“One of the critical issues that they’re facing right now is the fluctuations in feed prices,” he said. “I want to work with them to find alternative feeds to really … lower the cost of milk or beef production.”
Another top goal is researching the relationship between grazing and wildfires and determining what role grazing plays in helping reduce the impacts of fires.
OCA Executive Director Kay Teisl said that part of Oregon has been plagued by mega-wildfires in recent years and Arispe’s research on the issue could prove to be a big benefit to the industry.
“That’s a really important issue to cattlemen in that area,” she said. “I’m really happy to hear that he’s on board.”
Arispe said he also wants to work together with state and federal agencies and livestock producers to ensure “that the information that is utilized to either grant or deny permits on federal grazing allotments is scientifically sound.”
He is forming a needs assessment committee that will be made up of 10 representatives of industry and other stakeholders. That committee will conduct a formal needs assessment that will guide his research and extension efforts.
Committee members will include livestock families that have been in Oregon since the 1800s.
“I really want to draw from the history and wisdom that they have and address the issues that they see as critical and not necessarily force on them whatever agenda that I have,” he said.
Arispe previously worked as a research assistant at University of Idaho and as a graduate student researcher and teaching assistant at University of California-Davis. He also worked as an animal production specialist and habitat conservationist in Ecuador while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer.