In a state called home, Texas rancher takes Cattlemens Beef Board reins

Feb 5, 2010
by WLJ

It’s only fitting that after an eventful week in San Antonio, TX, at the Cattle Industry Annual Convention, Texas rancher Dan Dierschke joins the ranks of many across the country elected by fellow cattlemen and women to serve as Cattlemen’s Beef Board chair.

Let’s take a look back on the story of how Dierschke planted his feet in livestock agriculture. It was his first venture with his first 4-H calf, and it didn’t bode well. He raised the calf to about 900 pounds, sold it into a huge oversupply due to one of worst droughts in the state, and it brought 17 cents … what Dierschke says was the most disappointing $153.60 he has ever seen (not that he remembers down to the penny how much it sold for!). So how did he overcome the disappointment to become a fifth-generation Texas agriculturist?

After growing up on a diversified farm in West Texas where he was primarily involved in livestock production, he eventually left the family operation to further his education by obtaining a Masters of Education with a specialty in Guidance and Psychology.

While attending graduate school, he met his soul mate, Marilynn, a thirteenth-generation American whose family had slowly migrated from its Jamestown, VA, origins and arrived in Texas in 1835 while it was still a part of Mexico. As they planned their future together, they recognized they shared a love for agriculture. Dierschke purchased his first operation in 1971, and the beautiful pecan grove on it served as the site for the exchange of wedding vows. Over the years, they both continued to work outside of agriculture in various capacities as they built equity. But as life and love dictated, they purchased their first cattle herd in 1974, but continued off-farm employment while purchasing more properties and building their operation.

In 1979, Dierschke was managing a mental health center when he and Marilynn decided passion conquered occupation and it was time for him to move into full-time cattle production. The choice was obvious. Marilynn continued working in the public sector while assisting on the ranch whenever she wasn’t working in town.

“I had a renewed passion to provide the most wholesome, best-tasting food product possible,” he says. “With that passion, I made the decision to leave a successful non-agriculture career to return to my roots, and I continue to be fulfilled in that choice.”

The cattle business has been successful for the family, and the Dierschkes continue to grow their operation on the outskirts of Austin, TX. Even with 35 years in the cattle business, Dierschke says he’s oftentimes still in awe of the natural history of the land on which they are stewards. Their ranch headquarters are on the most scenic creek in the area, which has attracted visitors for thousands of years and is part of an 1824 Spanish land grant. Indian artifacts continue to be found: A highway preconstruction historical survey done on a leased property a few miles from the ranch headquarters found 11,000-year-old human artifacts buried under 11 feet of topsoil deposited from flooding. Much of the Dierschke operation was underwater millions of years ago and they constantly find fossilized sea shells. Not only that, but part of their land is on the side of two volcanoes noted as the only underwater volcanoes in Texas.

As their operation has matured, Dierschke found time to give back to the community and to the beef industry.

His service list is long: He served as an officer for the Emergency Services District, serves as chairman of the Agricultural Advisory Committee for the local tax appraisal district, serves as an appointee of the governor of Texas on the Farm and Ranch Land Conservation Council, is beginning his eighth year as a director of the U.S. Meat Export Federation and his fourth year on the executive committee, serves as an appointee of the secretary of Agriculture on the Animal and Animal Products Trade Advisory Committee, serves on the local county Farm Bureau Board where he was president for five years until elected as a director to the

Texas Farm Bureau Board of Directors, and served on the Texas Beef Council, including a term as chairman.

Dierschke says the challenges of the future will not differ significantly from the past as history tends to repeat itself. But, the keys to success in the beef industry are regaining and maintaining a fully open export market, since returns are enhanced through exports, and maintaining profitability in the face of unpredictable input costs and variable revenues for cattle.

“The challenges we are facing are somewhat daunting. Not only are we facing the traditional squeeze between high input costs and relatively low returns, we are also having to deal with wellfunded organizations who believe animals should not be used for any human purpose,” says Dierschke. “I have three goals for my year as Beef Board chairman: 1) develop and implement effective responses to the increasing demands of the various anti-animal use groups, 2) continue to use checkoff investments to increase profit opportunities for all seg ments of the beef industry, and 3) reduce counter-productive arguments within the industry and focus on our common goals. The checkoff belongs to everyone who invests in it and the success of the program is dependent upon these people taking ownership of it and directing funds to those activities that increase the bottom line.”

Retired from state government where she was an administrator, Marilynn is a volunteer with a number of state-level organizations primarily focused on farm and ranch land preservation. In her spare time, Marilynn works with her husband on their ranch and spoils their three sons and 11 grandchildren. Dierschke will tell you she is independent, hardworking and well represents her pioneer heritage.

“I believe the future offers strong possibilities,” concludes Dierschke, as he recalls a quote from one of the nation’s founders: ‘Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.’” —Thomas Jefferson. — WLJ