AMARILLO – Tim Steffens has been hired as an assistant professor of rangeland resource management, with a dual appointment in the West Texas A&M University department of agricultural sciences and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service within Texas A&M University’s department of ecosystem science and management.
Steffens, a native of Slaton, will begin Oct. 1 and be located on the West Texas A&M campus, according to Dr. Dean Hawkins, the university’s agricultural sciences department head.
In this newly created position, Steffens will teach undergraduate and graduate courses at WTAMU, as well as deliver AgriLife Extension programs and conduct applied research to share with constituents in the Texas Panhandle, Hawkins said.
“We are excited to have Dr. Steffens join our faculty,” he said. “His expertise in range science will expand our course offerings and form a platform of deliverable products we can offer the grazing-livestock producer. This partnership will further strengthen the working partnership between WTAMU and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension in providing resources for the students and industries we serve.”
Dr. Robert Lyons, assistant department head with the Texas A&M University department of ecosystem science and management, said, “We are very excited about having Tim as part of our unit to provide an Extension range presence in the Panhandle.”
“My professional life has been devoted to integrated approaches to improve rangeland resources for livestock production, wildlife habitat and watershed function in different climates and rangeland types,” Steffens said.
Steffens said one of his emphases in the Texas Panhandle will be integrated, regenerative range livestock and crop production strategies.
“With falling water tables, the legacy of the Dust Bowl, and the importance of agriculture to the regional economy, people understand the need for regeneration of soils, closing nutrient cycles, increasing water-use efficiency and increasing the effectiveness of inputs,” Steffens said. “The environmental and social heritage creates both an intense interest in the outcomes and an opportunity for funding from a number of different sources.”
He said the semiarid climate also creates opportunities, because if a management strategy works there, it is sure to work in more hospitable climates.
“Many innovations go through a process where people first think it won’t work; then, that it might work in some areas, but not theirs; then that it might work for some, but not their own situation; and then finally, to see it will work for them,” Steffens said. “Developing those successful strategies in a marginal environment facilitates the adoption and integration of those strategies on a wider geographical scale.”
The diversity of agriculture production in this area also provides a number of different markets and potential enterprises that may be used to profitably implement such strategies, he said. Area rangelands are suitable for most species and classes of livestock, providing a high degree of production flexibility.
Steffens earned his bachelor’s degree in agriculture education at Tarleton State University, his master’s degree in animal nutrition at Texas Tech University and his doctorate in range science at Colorado State University.
He has previously worked with the Colorado State University Integrated Resource Management program as a graduate student and again as an instructor. In these positions, he became familiar with their cooperator model used to educate cow-calf constituents about sustainable and profitable rangeland management as well as training them to be resource managers.
In addition to working on ranches in Archer and Clay counties, Steffens said he learned about other resource concerns and management strategies in different environments as a vocational agriculture teacher and Extension project manager for the Seco Creek Water Quality Demonstration Project in South Texas. He also spent time as ranch manager for a 1,300-cow operation for the Mescalero Apache Cattle Growers Association near Ruidoso, N.M.
His recent career has been spent in the Central High Plains, Rocky Mountain foothills and canyons of southeast Colorado as a range management specialist for Colorado State University Cooperative Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Services.
“I hope that my experience with grazing management for multiple purposes using cattle and sheep on range and cropland, grazing animal nutrition and wildlife habitat improvement will be a valuable asset to investigate, disseminate and promote these strategies and help people successfully implement them,” Steffens said.