Q&A with Zac Erwin

Zac is a field specialist in livestock.

Zac Erwin and his son on horseback.

What do you do in your current role with the University of Missouri? 

Field Specialist in Livestock; which includes several different roles. Show-Me-Select coordinator and Vice-chairman of the Missouri Livestock Symposium would be a couple official titles. I’ve been doing a lot of work recently with NRCS+MU Grasslands project working with NRCS and SWCD districts to design farm grazing plans for cost-share assistance. I spend a fair bit of time doing feed ration consulting for cow/calf producers and recently those doing on-farm finishing for the MO prime beef packers market. I work with some large cow/calf operations on whole farm planning and operational budgeting which has given me a great deal of perspective when we work on the yearly beef budgets for Northern Missouri. I work with veterinarians and producers implementing AI into beef herds and renting breeding barns to help facilitate the implementation of that technology. I’ve worked closely with researchers in Animal Science to conduct on-farm breeding trials in mature cows and heifers as they try to advance protocols designed to improve conception using sexed semen.

How long have you worked in this position? 

I’ll finish my 15th year in March.

What is your favorite part about the work you do? 

Working directly with the farmers and livestock producers in this state. Having a safe reliable food system begins at the farm level and being a part of the beginning of that process and seeing the impact the decisions those producers make has not only on their bottom line, but the effect it has down the supply chain is rewarding. Being in this position has given me a unique viewpoint on the industry as a whole and being able to help make positive connections throughout the industry is extremely gratifying.

How are you helping MU A&E Extension reach our #2xAg2030 goal? 

There is a lot of “added value” in the marketplace for those who wish to capture it and my role has been to help individuals identify those opportunities that fit within their structure and guide them with the best practices backed by research to seize those opportunities. That may be cutting costs, exploring new market opportunities, or investing in infrastructure. Sometimes it’s all the above. The closer you can get to the retail level the more opportunities exist to take advantage of market dynamics, but that often times involves significant changes within an operation and helping them navigate through that decision making process usually adds value to the product.

What is something your CAFNR and MU Extension teammates may not know about you?

I grew up with several horses on the farm and have a passion for training them. Mostly reining and cow horse training. I guess in a way it fits, because I’m an educator at heart. Communicating without words and teaching an animal to respond to you takes a great deal of patience and skill. It’s a skill I enjoy to refine myself and teach to my kids.

What is your hometown, place of high school graduation and degrees/universities?

I graduated from Adair County R2 high school in Brashear, MO. I then went to Northwest Missouri State University as a double major in Animal Science and Agriculture Business and later received MS in Agriculture with beef cattle emphasis.