New beef extension educator teeming with enthusiasm
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
TWIN FALLS, Idaho -- Billy Whitehurst might be the new kid on the block among University of Idaho extension beef personnel, but he has a lot of know-how under his belt, cowboying since high school and raising his own beef herd. He also spent 10 years as a ranch appraiser.
His new position with the University is his first "town job," and folks won't catch him in his office much. He'd rather be out with producers and their animals, he said.
"My favorite part of this job is getting out and helping people solve stuff to make things work better," he said.
But producers can catch him on the phone and get updates on his Magic Valley Beef Facebook page. He's also building another website and is starting up a print and electronic newsletter.
Since arriving in Idaho in mid-February, he's been spending his time getting to know producers and government agency personnel in his eight-county region. He spends a couple of hours every Wednesday at the Twin Falls livestock auction and has visited with bankers and pharmaceutical representatives to get sponsorships for beef seminars and workshops.
"I want to be able to help ranchers keep their operations viable, be profitable and perpetuate their operation through the family," he said.
He plans to be out in the country as much as possible and wants to be a viable resource for ranchers and feedlots, He also wants to aim his efforts at research that can be applied on the ranch and on the feedlot and is hoping producers will participate in that research.
Right now he's just trying to see what is needed and what issues producers are dealing with, he said.
He's never met a producer he couldn't learn something from, he said.
He started his ag education at 14 when he began wrangling horses and cleaning barns in a work-study program at a boarding school in Asheville, N.C. He spent summers working on ranches in Tennessee, Texas, Hawaii and Montana, trailing cattle, riding colts and shoeing horses.
After getting his bachelor's degree in ag business, he cowboyed one more year until his first child was born. He then worked as a ranch appraiser and with his wife built a 150 beef cow herd from scratch northwest of Bozeman, Mont.
In all that experience, he saw people doing things many different ways, with many making a lot of mistakes, and he figured he could keep people from making some of those same mistakes.
Ten years after receiving his bachelor's degree, he returned to Montana State University to pursue a master's degree in animal science and begin teaching. He enjoyed teaching while on campus but didn't like grading exams and giving homework, and thought extension work would be a much better fit.
He sold his cows on Dec. 15 and was on his new job in Twin Falls on Feb. 19. Eventually, he plans to start another beef herd here.
He said he's excited about extension work and being creative in solving problems. It's all about increasing production and decreasing input costs, he said.
That's a tall order, but the industry has to figure out how to do it, and he wants to be part of that, he said.
Occupation: University of Idaho extension beef educator
Family: Wife, Marci; daughters Maggie, 12, Katie, 10; son, Levi, 7
Education: Bachelor's degree in ag business; master's degree in animal science, both from Montana State University.