Stan Bevers has watched cattle and commodity markets hit record peaks and dip to depressing lows during his 27-year career as a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service marketing specialist. He gets off that roller coaster tomorrow Aug. 31.
Bevers has been an economist with the AgriLife Extension in Vernon for more than 27 years, and through the good years and the hard years, he’s offered educational programs to producers in the Rolling Plains and throughout Texas and surrounding states to help them survive and capitalize on markets and environmental conditions.
“The Rolling Plains is a unique area of the state,” he said. “Weather can be extreme—from 110 degrees and dry in the summer to 20 degrees, wet and the wind blowing 40 miles per hour. But, when everything is right, area producers believe they live in God’s Country.”
Producers always struggle with weather extremes, he says, but most know they can’t do anything about it.
“They can make a difference in their marketing,” he said. “I spent a lot of time educating on marketing and risk management and many producers participated in the programs.”
That included conducting five Master Marketer Programs in Vernon. The Master Marketer Program is an intensive 64-plus hour workshop stretching over eight weeks, and focuses on increasing the understanding of key agricultural marketing concepts with the goal of equipping participants with the tools they need to develop a marketing plan and sound marketing practices.
“Marketing is a tough hurdle for producers because they would rather be worrying about producing the crop or livestock,” Bevers said. “Many don’t have or want to spend the time to do ‘marketing.’ And now, with the increased volatility of the markets, producers dislike it even more. We’ve made a lot of progress over the course of my career, but marketing is always evolving, so constant marketing and risk management education will be needed in the future.”
Among other highlights in his career, Bevers is recognized for his work with the beef cow-calf standardized performance analysis, or SPA, which has been used by ranchers throughout the U.S. to evaluate their operations from both a production and financial standpoint.
Bevers conducted or was involved in the SPA of herds from Texas to Montana to Georgia. He has hosted the Southwest SPA database with information from 580 herd analyses, including 402,682 breeding cows, from Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. He also developed Key Performance Indicators for cow-calf operations to measure their efficiency.
Bevers said he has seen everything from very high prices to the extreme lows.
“From a producer’s standpoint, selling calves for $1,400 per head in 2014 was a lot of fun. So, the times prices were the highest is always the most enjoyable. But, prices get really high because someone somewhere probably had a production disaster, like the drought in 2011.
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HIGHS AND LOWS
“The best time for me as a specialist was probably some of the worst times for producers. During those difficult times, like the 2011-2012 drought, I traveled the district and state providing information as to how a producer could/should react to the conditions just to survive.
“While the producers were anxious about the environmental conditions, I got the greatest satisfaction knowing they saw me as a knowledgeable friend who was there to help,” Bevers said. “All the miles I traveled, I kept reminding myself that any problem I had probably wasn’t as bad as what those producers were going through. It was very satisfying to me knowing I did what I could.”
Bevers’ expertise wasn’t limited to the cattle market. Over the years he conducted many meetings, trainings and individual consultations on the decisions associated with farm bills, most recently the complicated Agricultural Act of 2014.
In the planning, one of the biggest considerations is that moisture will always be the limiting factor for production in the Rolling Plains.
“We don’t have a good, adequate source of water for irrigation, so we will always be predominantly dryland production and subject to the volatility of the weather.”
Bevers said while no-till and minimum till have been tried, they are still not widespread. “Cover crops will be important as we move forward,” he said. “We can also expect continued conversion of cultivated land to grass in order to get rid of annual production costs.
“So, the cliché that the more things change, the more they stay the same seems appropriate for the Rolling Plains. We will continue to try to maximize production, while minimizing our expenses.”
Bevers worked closely with Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension on several events, including the development and coordination of the Red River Crops Conference, Cattle Trails Cow-Calf Conference and the Cattle Trails Wheat and Stocker Cattle Conference.
He was an invited speaker at high-profile education events such as the Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course, Texoma Ranch and Farm Expo, King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management, Texas Chapter Society of Range Management state meetings, Ranching 101 Series by the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and many others.
Bevers earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and his master’s in agricultural economics from Texas A&M University in College Station. He also is an Accredited Farm Manager with the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.
He has been honored with numerous Superior Service Awards individually and as a team member by AgriLife Extension; with an Epsilon Sigma Phi Early Career Award and Epsilon Sigma Phi Mid-Career Award by the Alpha Zeta Chapter of Epsilon Sigma Phi; and as Specialist of the Year in Texas Agriculture by the Texas County Agricultural Agents Association.
He was also recognized on team awards by the Southern Agricultural Economics Association; Secretary of Agriculture’s Distinguished Program; Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service Distinguished Program; the Texas A&M AgriLife Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence; and the American Agricultural Economics Association.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR BEVERS?
“If I had my wish, I would spend one-third of my time ranch consulting, one-third taking care of my own cattle and one-third doing anything I wanted. I have consulted outside Texas already, and that will continue. I have other ranchers who would like to have some help as well.
“That said, I really enjoy working with my cattle. Plus, my wife will retire in two years from her speech pathologist position at the Vernon schools. And finally, my two grandkids are going to get really spoiled now.”