Beginning sometime Friday afternoon, March 15, 2013, Nueces County Extension agent for agriculture, Jeffrey Stapper, will be forced to stop ‘telling’ Texas farmers and ranchers how to adjust, compromise, and persevere the drought, and will start taking up his own advice and putting it into practice following his retirement this week.

Stapper officially retires this week and prepares to join a family ranching enterprise near San Angelo to help manage a cow-calf operation with his father.

“It’s been a real privilege to work with so many good South Texas farmers and ranchers in recent years and I will miss working with them and meeting with them to discuss the challenges of the future and the successes of the past,” Stapper said.

He agreed the immediate challenge would be to stop talking about and start acting upon the latest in agriculture science.

“I have put my years into the AgriLife extension service and it has all been good. I have enjoyed sharing and learning with Texas producers and must take it all to heart now that I will find myself on the other side of the fence and back to ranching,” he added.

While his career has reached the number of years of service required to qualify for official retirement, Stapper says he actually thought he would continue with the Extension service for several more years. But he was raised on a farm near New Braunfels. His father purchased a cow-calf operation a few years back near San Angelo, and because of health concerns and the drought, “now seems like a good time to get back to root of it all.”

As far as what he sees as the greatest challenge facing him in his new role of hands-on agriculture, extreme drought across most of Texas poses a tremendous stumbling black for the cow business—and agriculture-at-large. In addition to water, Stapper says high input costs, especially feed, ample forage and consumer prices are all major hurdles that lie ahead.

“My dad, like other livestock producers across the state, reduced animal numbers and had to downsize because of the drought and the many problems it has been causing over the last couple of years. This will remain the challenge until we finally get the rain we need to turn it all around. When the forage comes back, things will look better, but when that might happen remains the real question.”