5 questions with ... Tim Petry, extension livestock marketing economist at North Dakota State University
Q: Is it true that North Dakota is one of the few states that still has an extension livestock marketing economist?
Yes, that is correct. I like to joke that I have one of the few professions where I know all of my counterparts on a first-name basis. It is certainly a credit to North Dakota State University extension administrators and the NDSU vice president for agricultural affairs for continuing to support North Dakota livestock agriculture with the livestock marketing position. Our neighboring states — Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana — at one time did have, but now do not have extension livestock marketing economists. Although there are only a few of us, I am humbled to be friends with some of the most knowledgeable, dedicated colleagues possible.
Q: Agriculture has been — and still is — such a big part of your life. What do you enjoy most about ag?
I was born into livestock agriculture and grew up on a livestock ranch in the mid-1940s and '50s. Our ranch, like many ranches at that time, was much less specialized than today. We raised beef cattle, sheep, hogs, a couple milk cows (milked by hand), draft and riding horses, chickens, and even ducks, geese and turkeys at times. So I was exposed to a diverse variety of livestock. I loved watching young animals being born and helping to raise them to market weight. But I was also intrigued by how prices changed sometimes rather abruptly, and why prices always seemed to be low whenever we had livestock to sell. That is what led me to NDSU to study agricultural economics and then to a career in livestock marketing. I really enjoy the dynamic nature of the livestock industry, especially as it pertains to marketing and fundamental factors that affect prices.
Q: You're optimistic about the long-term future of livestock prices. Why?
That is another reason why I enjoy working in agriculture, because most people involved in ag are optimists. Specifically, the most important determinants of demand for any product or commodity are the number of consumers, incomes of consumers, and tastes and preferences of consumers. Thankfully, all three of those are positive for the livestock industry.
Q: Some of your former students at North Dakota State University now have children of their own involved in agriculture. Your reaction to that?
I think that it is absolutely great! The future of any industry is dependent on youth who are willing to enter the industry, be actively involved, and ultimately become leaders. Although I don't have a formal teaching appointment any more, I do guest lecture in classes. I certainly enjoy talking with students who are so passionate about choosing agriculture for a career. So, I know that agriculture will be in good hands for many years to come.
Q: Any thoughts or suggestions for a young person considering a career in ranching or working with livestock?
I would highly recommend it. One of the things I enjoy most about ag is that the people are so dedicated and hard working. Raising livestock is a 365 day per year occupation so livestock producers must be devoted. I realize that probably not all young people who would like to be a rancher or livestock producer will be able to do that, because it usually would involve returning to a family-owned business. However, there are many excellent, very rewarding occupations with ample career opportunities in the livestock industry. Hopefully, some will even consider being an Agweek journalist or an extension livestock marketing economist.
Tim Petry is the extension livestock marketing economist in the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at NDSU. He travels extensively in the area conducting meetings on
livestock marketing educational topics. Copies of his presentations, columns and other current information affecting the livestock industry are available on his website: www.ag.ndsu.edu/livestockeconomics.