AMES, Iowa - As change has occurred in the way Iowa's livestock producers operate, change also has taken place in the way Iowa State University Extension provides assistance to those producers.
The most recent change is a new staffing plan that shifts some personnel from being livestock generalists to being specialists in one of three species - beef, dairy or swine.
The retirements this spring of three livestock extension specialists provided a catalyst for the new staffing plan. Jerry Miller, associate dean of extension and outreach for the ISU College of Agriculture, and director of agriculture and natural resources extension, said the new plan will serve Iowa's livestock producers well.
"A team of ISU Extension field and campus specialists evaluated the current state of livestock production and used that information to develop the new plan. We've spent the past several months studying ways to reassign our current staff to best meet the needs of Iowa producers," Miller said.
"The new plan means each specialist has a slightly larger area to cover," Miller said. "But the upside is that every county now has either a field specialist in each of the three livestock species, or at least an initial point of contact for that species. That wasn't true before."
Under the new plan, there are eight beef field specialists serving the entire state. They are located in Rock Rapids, Spirit Lake, Garner, Allison, Marengo, Lewis, Chariton and Fairfield.
There are three dairy field specialists, located in Orange City, Allison and Dubuque. While those three specialists have specific areas across the northern half of Iowa, each also is designated as a point-of-contact for several more counties. In addition, two animal science department faculty with expertise in dairy - Lee Kilmer and Leo Timms - will serve as the point-of-contacts across a large portion of southern Iowa.
There are seven swine field specialists, located in Cherokee, Pocahontas, Garner, Fayette, Anamosa, Sigourney and Washington. Three of those specialists also will serve as the point-of-contact for several additional counties in southwest Iowa.
The three extension livestock specialists who retired this spring all worked in central and southwest Iowa - Roger Brummett, Bedford; Carl Neifert, Winterset; and Russ BreDahl, Creston. "We believe staffing adjustments made in this new plan will meet the needs of livestock producers in these areas and all across Iowa," Miller said.
Miller stressed that just because someone is a point-of-contact for a particular county, that doesn't mean he or she will be "driving halfway across the state to meet with an individual producer. It does mean the county extension office assistant will know who to direct a producer to, as a starting point," he said. "That person may in turn suggest the producer contact a local service provider for technical assistance, or may be able to suggest a Web site or educational opportunity that offers the help needed."
Paul Brown, agriculture and natural resources extension assistant director, said a review of census data shows how the livestock industry in Iowa has changed. "In 1992, there were about 87,000 Iowa farms with livestock. By 2002, that number had dropped to 44,000," he said. "That means the combined livestock number for dairy, beef and swine in Iowa in 2002 was down 44 percent from the 1992 agriculture census."
"Everyone is aware of the trends taking place in Iowa livestock production," Brown said. "The state is changing and the services ISU Extension provides must change, too. At the same time, we need to help Iowans look at the many opportunities that exist in the state. And the fact that a large percentage of our counties rely on agriculture for their livelihoods."
Miller said area extension directors are in the process of adjusting travel budgets and meeting with county office staff to outline the new plan, with full implementation expected by July 1.
Besides the dairy, beef and swine specialists who operate under the agriculture and natural resources extension umbrella, there are area specialists in four other categories - agricultural engineering, crops, farm management and horticulture.
Contact information for the agriculture extension specialists, plus maps showing their coverage areas, are online at /ag/fs.html.