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Laramie – After 50 years of Extension and education work, 37 of those years at the University of Wyoming (UW), Associate Professor of Rangeland Ecology and Watershed Management Dan Rodgers is officially retiring from his position.

As he reflects back on his career at UW and his experiences working in Wyoming, one of the highlights for Rodgers has been helping students discover their passion for learning and rangeland management.

“Working with the students has probably been the most rewarding part of my career here at UW,” says Rodgers, “Especially trying to get them motivated and to get them to think that they’re going to school for themselves.”

Growing up

Growing up farming and ranching in north central Texas taught Rodgers many invaluable lessons in agriculture.

He explains that his father was pivotal in his education and love of learning.

“I was the oldest son and my dad tried to teach me everything he knew or heard, and he read a lot,” says Rodgers. “I tried to soak it all in.”

In school, Rodgers notes that he learned to be self reliant as his knowledge in certain topics rose above what his ag teacher could teach him.

“I made my own plant collection the first time I got interested in plants. My teacher just told me there was a book in the library I could check out on it,” he comments.

After showing his teacher his collection of grasses, Rodgers’ teacher had him teach the class about all that he had learned.

“That was probably my first attempt at teaching anybody. That led me to plan to go vocational ag,” Rodgers notes.

Ten days after graduating from high school, Rodgers began attending East Texas State College to obtain a degree in Agricultural Education.

Change of plans

As he was preparing to start the final year of his Agricultural Education program, Rodgers was given the opportunity to meet with a friend of his advisor about a graduate school program.

“He offered me support if I could start in January,” explains Rodgers. “So, I went back home and figured out how I could change that Ag Ed program and change to a general ag program, take about 22 hours that fall and could graduate in January.”

That January, Rodgers left to begin his master’s program in Range Management at Texas Tech.

“After 1.5 years there, I was done and trying to decide what to do, but that had been so good I thought, ‘Well maybe I should just keep going to school until I flunk out,’” he jokes.

While attending a range meeting in Wichita, Kan., Rodgers interviewed with several colleges for the PhD programs.

“Utah State University (USU) had a teaching assistantship available. I went home and married my girlfriend and off we went,” says Rodgers.

During the three years he was at USU, Rodgers gained experience teaching a variety of different courses, while also working on his research project.

Early career

After completing his PhD, Rodgers began looking for work closer to family in Texas.

“I saw a job for an Extension Specialist at Texas A&M University (TAMU),” says Rodgers. “I didn’t know what they did for sure, but I went down and interviewed with them.”

In September of 1967, Rodgers began working for TAMU as their third state Extension Specialist.

“That was fun for a long time except every biennium, the legislature gave us another area range specialist job and those guys all were working the good ranch country,” he laughs.

While he was able to do all of the youth work he wanted to and enjoyed working in east Texas, Rodgers decided that a career change was in order.

“I was spending more of my time doing budgets, plans to work and reports than I was range work,” Rodgers comments.

Wyo bound

After seeing a job advertised at UW, Rodgers applied to and interviewed for a position in the Ecosystem Science and Management department.

“I started to work here on June 1 of 1980, which is coming up on 37 years now,” he says.

For the first 11 years of his career at UW, Rodgers’ focus was primarily on Extension, with only a month of teaching and two months of research.

However, after losing several faculty members in 1991, Rodgers convinced the department head to switch him to a focus on teaching.

“He was tickled to death to get out of that bind, so I’ve been heavy teaching for nine months with two months of Extension that I can do in summer and then just one month of research time,” comments Rodgers.

“In 1996, we started the WyRED, which the Wyoming Resource Education Days,” he notes. “I’ve continued doing Extension work in the summer, workshops and youth camps, as well as identifying plants for people.”

Looking back on his career at UW and toward the future, Rodgers concludes, “It’s been real fun, working with students and working with ranchers and agency people all over Wyoming for 37 years.”

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Laramie – On March 31, the University of Wyoming (UW) released their draft strategic plan, which they say, “calls for advancements in academic quality, enrollment, statewide engagement, diversity and economic development over the next five years.”

“Specifically, the draft plan aims to increase student recruitment, retention and graduation; degree programs offered online and at UW’s regional centers; collaborations with community colleges and K-12 schools; research funding; startup companies; and private contributions to the university, among other measures,” comments UW in a press release that accompanies the plan.

The plan was laid out by the university’s Strategic Planning Leadership Council, a 24-member board that held an extensive series of public meetings around the state and on campus.

UW Provost Kate Miller, who chairs the Strategic Planning Leadership Council, says the group welcomes input from all of UW’s constituents.

“This draft is still rough in some respects, but it represents the council’s best efforts to set a course by which the university fulfills its flagship and land-grant mission through the free and open pursuit of knowledge in engagement with Wyoming and the world,” Miller says. “Our vision is to bring Wyoming and western intelligence, energy, grit and innovation to the economic, social and environmental challenges of today and to create a thriving, equitable and sustainable world for tomorrow.”

Bigger picture

Within the university-wide plan, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dean Frank Galey says it’s important for Wyomingites to comment on the plan.

“Reading through the draft, it’s sufficiently rough at this point,” he comments, “and I think there’s plenty of time to comment on it. It’s an 80,000-foot plan, and it’s pretty general, which is good, I think.”

In broad strokes, UW explains that the broad goals and objectives of the plan are to “foster and reward excellence in teaching, scholarship, innovation and creative endeavor to enhance an intellectual community renowned for its regional, national and global relevance and impact; inspire students to pursue a productive, engaged and fulfilling life and prepare them to succeed in a sustainable global economy; in collaboration with constituents and partners, improve and enhance the health and well-being of communities and environments; and assure the long-term strength and stability of the university through a focus on infrastructure, human capital and new revenue sources.”

Under each goal and objective, the plan lays out measureable outcomes.

Inside the plan

Overall, the strategic plan refers to growing research and increasing creative efforts, both of which inspire students to be engaged.

“We’re certainly happy about a plan that inspires students to be engaged,” Galey says. “We’ll also probably put something in our college academic plan that talks about ensuring students get some sort of experience.”

Many students in the College of Agriculture currently receive some hands-on or internship training during their education, and Galey notes that he is supportive of a continued drive to push student experiences.

Currently, the UW Strategic Plan does not say much about Extension, Galey adds, but he believes the general goals of the plan encompass the Extension missions.

“Currently, the plan forms an Office of Engagement that tracks and coordinates our engagement,” Galey explains. “They talk about economic diversification and collaboration with community colleges, mostly related to recruitment and engaging alumni.”

He continues, “One of the things they did talk about is trying to establish recognition by the Carnegie Foundation as an engaged community, with a lot of focus on infrastructure.”

In particular, Galey cites a focus on maintaining and enhancing the physical infrastructure on campus, which is helpful for ag.

“There is also a lot on enhancing workplace climate for the university,” he says, adding that the plan also mentions a capital campaign.

Comments

“They are taking comments on that plan now,” Galey says. “Right now, I’m supportive of the plan, but the next draft could have a land mine in it. We’ll have to watch and be engaged in this process.”

Listening sessions on campus are being conducted throughout April. The next listening session will be held April 25 at Casper College’s Strausner Hall from 2:30-3:30 p.m.

UW’s strategic plan will be out for comment until April 27.

After public comment, the plan may be revised to reflect input and then will be presented to UW’s Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and the Associated Students of UW. At that point, it will go before the UW Board of Trustees for final approval and consideration.

“Following Board of Trustees approval, the plan will be implemented at the start of the 2017-18 fiscal year, with college and unit plans finalized in fall 2017,” says UW.

Galey notes that there are likely to be some substantial changes after the listening sessions.

College of Ag plan

With the university-wide draft strategic plan nearly complete, Galey says, “We haven’t completed a strategic plan. We need to draw our plan up to line up with the university-wide plan, which is the process we’re in now.”

A committee from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is currently working to finalize the strategic plan for the college.

“We’ve gotten through a preliminary process, and now we’re looking at what we can do in the college,” Galey explains. “We’re setting goals to recruit new students, research and outreach service-related goals.”

In addition, at this point, the College of Agriculture plan has all units drafted, and the document will be reviewed by the College Advisory Board during their spring meeting.

“We’ll likely have a draft by end of summer or fall,” Galey says. “Once that draft is available, we’ll make sure to distribute it to the ag community.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for comments or questions.

Casper – Three years ago, Casper College purchased a property west of Casper with the intention of building a rodeo arena and utilizing the 167 acres of farm ground and associated buildings as an educational facility.

The original intent was to develop a rodeo arena for a practice facility, but the property also provided an opportunity to bolster academics by providing a field setting for coursework.

The property was dubbed, “The Ranch,” and students began attending courses at the facility. When the property was purchased, upgrades like emergency exits and public building requirements were necessary for the facility.

In late 2016, students learned they could no longer use the facility for classes, labs or practices.

Rumors spreading through the Casper College community surfaced that the facility would be sold in favor of other options, such as purchasing undeveloped land, for the use the college.

Trustees meeting

With rumors flying across campus and around the community, locals and students attended the March 23 Casper College Board of Trustees meeting to speak up about their viewpoints.

Jack Stewart, a Casper attorney and chairman of the Casper College Ag Department Advisory Board, said, “When the Board purchased the ranch campus, they showed real vision for helping the department to be vibrant, attract students to Casper College and to grow the community.”

“Let’s move forward with the ranch campus,” Stewart added. “The agriculture industry will continue into the future. We need to develop the ranch campus.”

Mary Owens, a rancher from north of Casper, commented that the agriculture industry is vastly important to Natrona County, and students need to have the opportunity to learn about the agriculture industry in a hands-on atmosphere.

“The opportunities out there are unbelievable,” she asserted. “What we have at Casper College in the ranch campus is something special. It makes Casper College different and unique. What an opportunity.”

Students also echoed Owens sentiment, stating that the ranch campus was part of the draw to attend Casper College.

Sophomore student Cheney Peterson said that the ranch campus provides students with a chance to get their hands dirty in learning, citing a meat fabrication course and the opportunity to learn about livestock and crops on the campus.

“The ranch campus is part of the reason I came to Casper,” she asserted. “I couldn’t help but see my life happening and see myself taking classes out there when I toured the campus. I couldn’t wait to get my hands dirty and learn from experience.”

Solutions

Burt Andreen, a civil engineer in Casper, explained that the obstacles cited in rumors may not be as big as they are portrayed.

“When the work was priced for the ranch campus, we priced a Cadillac,” he said, “but we should try taking this one bite at a time. Let’s break it down into baby steps.”

Andreen continued, “One of the big obstacles is the zoning. There is no education zoning in the county, so any property would have to also have a conditional use permit.”

He noted that the application for a conditional use permit is only $300.

Natrona County Building Official Jason Gutierrez echoed Andreen’s statement.

In addition, Natrona County Commissioner Rob Hendry said, “The Natrona County Commissioners have been involved since the beginning. When the college came to us and needed a road, we made the road a county road.”

“We’ve got a lot of money in this, and I think selling the property to buy a piece of land is the wrong way to go,” he continued. “If the college comes to the Commission, we will support a conditional use permit. We’d like the college to use the ranch campus.”

Andreen continued that building codes, such as installation of emergency exits, emergency lights and more, could be conformed to for a relatively small amount of money, which would allow Casper College to hold classes at the facility.

“If we look at this in small steps, doing small upgrades like panic hardware on the doors, we can make the facility useable today,” Andreen emphasized. “Let’s take small steps so we can use the facility today.”

One local businessman explained that the opportunity to help students learn in a hands-on manner is what businesses are looking for.

“Our most successful means of finding employees is from Casper College’s campus, and the ranch is the best way to create high-quality employees,” he said.

At the conclusion of the public comment period of the meeting, Casper College Board of Trustees President Matt Loucks commented, “We’ve had record attendance at this meeting. We’d like to thank the public for speaking up and voicing their concerns. Without public comments, it’s not a full board meeting, so we welcome participation.”

College statement

When the Roundup reached out to Casper College for comment on these rumors, they commented, “At this time, we are facing a significant funding challenge with the ranch campus and have to consider all possible solutions.”

They added, “One potential solution, and the one that raised the most concern, is to look at an alternative location should the current one prove difficult to appropriately zone or too costly to improve.”

The college additionally stated that the ranch campus would require a change in zoning, as well at $5 million in facility improvements to bring the building up to codes for a higher education facility.

“We anticipate another $5 million is needed for the rodeo practice arena, which is identified in the campus master building plan. Funding at that level is a key concern,” Casper College said.

Community members argued those figures were highly inflated.

Regardless of the assertions of community members and students, Casper College said, “We’re very proud of the Casper College agriculture programs, the faculty instructors, the rodeo team, clubs and their many achievements. We want to continue the strong tradition we’ve established in these areas of the college and will continue to evaluate all possible options with that in mind.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In mid-March, the University of Wyoming (UW) hired Whit Stewart, PhD, to fill the long-vacant position as Extension sheep specialist.

Stewart is currently the Extension sheep specialist at Montana State University. He will start in Wyoming in late July 2017.

“It’s been about 15 years since this position has been filled,” says Mike Day, University of Wyoming Animal Science Department head. “We’re excited to welcome Whit to our team of Extension specialists.”

The position is a three-pronged appointment. Stewart will be responsible for Extension, teaching and research.

“Hiring this position was a priority because Wyoming’s sheep industry is in the top three or four in the nation in almost every category,” Day continues. “We have a progressive and involved sheep industry, and the industry contributes to our overall agricultural output. Sheep production is key to Wyoming’s agriculture industry.”

He adds, “It was crucial we have somebody to help lead industry advancement with our stakeholders, as well as someone to focus on teaching and research on campus.”

Coming to Wyoming

Stewart was raised in western New York on a cow/calf and ewe lamb operation.

“After high school, I worked for my Dad on a calf ranch in South Carolina before I figured I needed to get an education,” Stewart says.

He served for two years on a mission in Ecuador before pursuing an education, first at Brigham Young University-Idaho and then at Oregon State, where he earned his master’s degree in sheep mineral nutrition.

“I worked for a year as an Extension educator in Gillette when the opportunity came up to finish my PhD in a joint program with Texas A&M University in San Angelo and New Mexico State University,” he says. “That led me to where I am now.”

While he was raised in New York, Stewart says he has western roots.

“I was the first generation raised in the East,” he comments. “My parents bought the farm back there and had the goal to run their operation in the East, but the West called me back.”

Sheep Extension

Making the decision to apply for Wyoming’s Extension sheep specialist wasn’t an easy one for Stewart, with his history in Montana, but he sees abundant opportunity with the position.

“I am familiar with UW’s Extension system, and when I was here before, I had a great relationship with ranchers and the university. It was a great position, and Wyoming is a great place.”

At the same time, Wyoming’s influence in the sheep industry means there is room for growth in the Extension program.

“When we look at the number of breeding ewes in the state, Wyoming is third in the nation, and last year alone, we grew another 10,000 breeding ewes. It’s a huge state, and because there hasn’t been an Extension sheep specialist for many years, there’s ample opportunity to serve the industry,” he continues.

“People are hungry for sheep-specific information,” Stewart says, adding that he sees tremendous potential in cooperative efforts between Wyoming and Montana, where he can leverage his relationships and experience to benefit many sheep producers.

“It’s bittersweet to leave Montana,” he adds. “The sheep industry in Montana is a tight-knit community, and we’ve done a lot. We’ve also left work undone, but I feel good about the relationships that will continue those projects.”

He also hopes to establish cooperative relationships through the wool lab, long-term crossbreeding projects and genetics projects.

“We have close connections between the two states, and I think we can tag-team programming,” Stewart explains.

Starting fresh

With a fledgling Extension sheep program in Wyoming, Stewart looks forward to building that program.

“There is a really progressive group of sheep producers in Wyoming, and I’m looking forward to really working with them on getting more bang for their buck when it comes to managing input costs,” he says. “There are a number of research and outreach themes that Extension can help with that may help increase profitability.”

Stewart also sees opportunity in the strength of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA).

“The success of any Extension program comes from working with industry  groups and producers, and I look forward to building the relationship between WWGA and UW,” Stewart explains. “I’ve already had numerous conversations with Amy Hendrickson from WWGA and look forward to collaborative efforts.”

As he comes to UW, he plans to get out in the field as soon as possible to get to know as many producers as possible and work closely with the sheep flock on campus.

Stewart will also work closely with the Laramie Research and Extension Center’s Doug Zalesky and UW’s Kalli Koepke to take an active role in the UW sheep flock.

“What fascinates me about the sheep industry is why we do the things we do and why we choose not to incorporate other things,” he says. “I really want to focus on how I can help producers make the most of established and emerging technologies for their operations.”

Working together

Stewart also notes that he looks forward to really connecting with producers from a needs-driven standpoint.

“I’d like producers to feel comfortable getting me on the phone, but patient with me because there is a lot of demand and work to be done developing Extension, research and teaching programs,” he explains. “I’m ready to take their input and do what I can to make this position the best it can be.”

He focuses on collaborative research and education, as well as meaningful programming.

“I’m super excited to also teach sheep production classes to motivate and inspire the next generation,” Stewart comments. “I want to have a positive impact on the sheep producers and industry leaders who will take over in the next 30 years.”

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand for sheep programming, and I’m looking forward to establishing long-term objectives and getting applied research going while not stretching myself too thin,” he adds. “I want to be clear that this isn’t going to be ‘Whit’s Sheep Program.’ It will be an active partnership with Extension educators, on-campus UW faculty, WWGA and producers throughout the state. We have the greatest impact when we all work together.”

Excitement

“There are a lot of reasons that we’re excited for Whit to join University of Wyoming,” Day continues. “Whit was an Extension educator in northeast Wyoming, so he’s familiar with our industry.”

Day also praises Stewart’s PhD work and the Extension sheep program he has built at Montana State University.

“Whit’s experience will allow him to step into this job quickly and make progress to build a program that is a good fit in Wyoming,” Day says. “He’s going to be able to hit the ground running at the University of Wyoming.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – Air Force veteran Colonel Philip Doornbos was actively involved at Casper College for 20 years and was instrumental in securing funding from the oil and gas industry for education.

In his honor, the Doornbos Chair at Casper College was formed and is responsible for bringing events and discussions in agriculture to the college.

On March 1, the 2017 Doornbos Lecture Series kicked off with internationally renowned futurist and economist Lowell Catlett speaking on the automated virtual future of agriculture.

Then and now

“Guess what? The good old days sucked,” chuckled Catlett, noting that in 1970, the world population was 3.6 billion, but agriculture could not provide each person with 2,450 calories, which is needed for normal body weight.

Alternatively, by 2015, the world population doubled and grew to 7.2 billion.

“In 2015, we’ve doubled the world’s population, but there’s 3,200 calories produced per person,” he stressed.

Catlett commented that it is commonly reported that the world population is expected to grow to 9 billion.

“If we distributed calories produced in 2015 to the 9 billion people, there’s already 2,450 per person,” exclaimed Catlett. “Agriculture already produces enough food to feed 9 billion people 2,450 calories. That’s fabulous and has never happened in history.”

The amount of disposable income the average American spent on food in 2015 was 9.7 percent, which was the lowest ever recorded.

“Because of the efficiency of agriculture, American people have gotten back 10 percent more money, and it’s fostered a whole bunch of other industries, such as the restaurant industry,” he continued.

If agriculture stopped its progress with the technology used in 1970, Catlett noted that there would be dramatic environmental impacts.

“It would require 3 billion more acres to produce food for the world population,” he noted. “That’s the entire arable landmass of Canada, the U.S. and China combined.”

Prescriptions

“We have something in agriculture now called prescription agriculture,” said Catlett, which is the idea of using site-specific information in management decisions.

“Our planters today plant, for every linear inch, the number of seeds for that specific linear inch that should be there,” he explained.

Catlett continued, “Last year, Kinze gave the world the first multiple variety planter, so now with prescription agriculture, we go through the field and based on yield results, soil profiles and everything for that linear inch, we determine, not only how many seeds to plant but which variety.”

Through the utilization of prescription agriculture, he noted that producers can sequester eight times more carbon from the atmosphere than the natural environment can on its own.

“And if we have a healthy soil microbe profile, that’s another eight times,” commented Catlett. “In a carbon rich world, the people who control the plants, own it.”

Technologies

At the same time, technologies outside of the field are also improving.

“My Galaxy phone is 32 million times more powerful than a computer that took people to the moon,” commented Catlett.

Catlett explained that in 2015, approximately 5 quintillion transistors, which are conductors used to amplify electronic signals, were placed in devices besides computers.

“We’re seeing this already, but get ready. Everything is going to talk to everything,” he said.

Currently, technology with transistors has opened avenues for tracking soil conditions.

“We have the ability to communicate with what the soil it telling us its requirements are and what plant would work best,” continued Catlett.

The technology of three-dimensional printing is also making appearances in the agricultural industry.

“They are beginning to create flexible sensors that we can get for less than a penny they attach to a seed,” explained Catlett. “We will not have a single plant that doesn’t have a printed sensor on it.”

Robotics is another technology that will become more prevalent in agriculture, particularly in fruits and vegetables.

“The next revolution is called Baxter. We take Baxter’s hand, let it feel a ripe peach and put it into this basket, an unripe peach and put it into this basket, and we only have to show it once,” commented Catlett.

Artisan

As technology advances, some jobs will become obsolete, while others are created, Catlett noted, giving the example of eliminating the need for commercial truck drivers.

“But maybe we need a load technician. Technology always creates more jobs than it destroys. We just have to read history,” said Catlett. “It takes the number of hours we have to earn a living down.”

With the increased efficiency from technology advances, Catlett calls the coming era “the age of the artisans.”

“In this world, what technology, robotics and cognition cannot replace is human experiences, and that’s a chance for phenomenal growth,” he continued.

“We can print modular homes, but we might want to customize them,” Catlett explained. “In that artisan world, humans have more money and more time, and human experiences begin to be valued even more.”

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..