Shelby Filley: Love of animals leads to career

Shelby Filley gives her horse, Katie Sue, a pat during a break in working cattle on a friend’s ranch on June 2. Filley is a livestock and forage specialist who provides information on those topics, but in her spare time she enjoys working with cows and their calves.

ROSEBURG, Ore. — Conversations around the family dinner table about dairy cows and their nutrition had a major influence on then pre-teen Shelby Hernandez.

“My grandfather (Moses Hernandez) was a nutritionist for his dairy cows,” said the now married Shelby Filley. “He was always talking about feeding cows. I enjoyed listening to that and that’s where I got my love for nutrition and cows.”

Filley, 60, has been a livestock and forage specialist for the Oregon State University Extension Service for the past 21 years. She is based in Roseburg and when hired in 1998, her responsibility was Douglas County. But then because of state budget cuts, her job was extended to cover six counties and then altered again to cover all of Western Oregon.

“I try to encourage livestock and forage producers to use proven methods to produce efficient, environmental and economical livestock and forages,” Filley said.

The extension specialist works with farmers and ranchers who have cattle, sheep and goats. She admits, however, that because of her family’s background of owning and operating dairy farms in Southern California, cows are her favorite.

After graduating from Monte Vista High School in San Diego, Filley earned a degree in animal sciences at the University of California-Davis in 1982. She said she had some “really, really fantastic teachers who were animal nutritionists.” They impressed her with their research enough so that she switched her focus from veterinarian science to ruminant nutrition.

In addition to earning her degree in 1982, Filley married Cameron Filley, who was a psychiatric technician. The couple moved back to the family dairy in Chino, Calif., where Shelby helped with mixing ingredients for the dairy’s feed wagon and attended Cal Poly-Pomona. She earned her master’s degree in 1986 in agriculture with a focus on ruminant nutrition.

Filley worked for Herd Technology in Chino, studying milk and colostrum replacement, and then worked as a senior research technician in molecular biology at Loma Linda University.

That work inspired her to pursue a doctorate. She was accepted at Oregon State University in Corvallis in 1994. During her three years in the OSU program, she and Cameron and their two daughters spent two years at the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center in Burns, Ore. Filley studied the rebreeding of first-calf cows and the use of essential fatty acids to stimulate the animals’ reproductive systems. She wrote articles that were published about the study.

“Although we made some progress in understanding the problem, we didn’t increase the rate of pregnancy in those cows,” she said. “That study has continued with different combinations of essential fatty acids and different proportions being considered. It’s still a hot topic, a complex problem.”

A month before graduating with her doctorate in animal nutrition and reproduction, Filley was hired by the OSU Extension Service for the position in Roseburg. In addition to visiting farms and ranches and talking with livestock owners, Filley provides educational programs on nutrition, forages and reproduction out in the field and in classrooms.

She is a full professor with tenure at OSU where she is a part-time teacher for some classes, a guest lecturer for others and a mentor for assistant and associate professors in the ag department.

In May, she was named the western region director for the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists, moving up from the presidency of the Pacific Northwest chapter of that organization.

“I credit my grandfather for my love for nutrition,” Filley said. “I credit Cameron and our daughters, Samantha and Tracy, for helping me get to where I am now and I credit the producers I work with now for their interest.

“If anybody wants information, I’m willing to take the time to give it to them, whether you have two cows or you are a large producer,” she added.

Recommended for you