Ron and Debbie Gill – Chico, Texas

Describing Ron and Debbie Gill of Chico, Texas as a Texas beef “power couple” would be a fair assessment, and actually an understatement. Not only do this husband-wife team own and manage Gill Cattle Company, a 2000-acre ranch sprawling through North Central Texas, but are also highly active in teaching, advocacy, and leadership within the agricultural community, state-wide and beyond.

Ron, a 4th generation rancher, and Debbie purchased the base herd for Gill Cattle Company from Ron’s father in 1989 and relocated from the semi-arid landscape of New Mexico to a similar climate in around Decatur and Weatherford, Texas in 1995. The ranch is a commercial cow-calf and yearling operation (about 200 mother cows) that strives to balance the demands for quality beef with environmentally adapted cattle. Over the past five years, they have diversified the operation to sell ranch-raised beef and replacement heifers to add value to their calf crop.

Ron has a lifetime of hands-on cattle experience but also studied animal agriculture at Angelo State University where he received his B.S. and M.S. and went on to Texas A&M to earn a Ph.D. in 1984. In addition to working the ranch, Ron has been employed as a Professor and Extension Livestock Specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service for the past 40 years where he is an expert in animal well-being and low-stress livestock handling. He also teaches courses for producers at schools all over the US (and internationally) in Cattle Handling and Stockmanship.

Ron has played an active role in developing and supporting educational efforts related to Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) throughout the US and territories. He has been a leader in the development and delivery of the BQA program since it was implemented 25 years ago. In 2018, Ron was recognized for his efforts when he received the BQA Educator Award from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Debbie’s agricultural training has come from on-the-job experiences, on an as-needed basis. “I did not grow up in agriculture,” explains Debbie, who hails from the Dallas area. “I spent most of my adult life on the fringes of it until I met and married Ron.” 

Obviously, a quick study who loves what she does, Debbie has supported the beef community in numerous capacities. From doing what needed to be done on the ranch to, most recently, serving as the president of Wichita Falls Area CattleWomen. She previously served as Texas CattleWomen (TCW) President and American National CattleWomen (ANCW) Region IV Director. Debbie also serves on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, the producer-driven entity that oversees the national Beef Checkoff program.

While serving as President TCW, alongside Vice President Casey Matzke, this pair developed a hands-on training called Women in Ranching. Debbie and Casey wanted to provide women who were coming back into ranching or wanting to get involved in ranching an opportunity to participate in hands-on training in the day-to-day management of livestock operations. This program was the model for the development of the ANCW national Women In Ranching, Education, and Development (WIRED) program that is now conducted throughout the US.

Ron and Debbie reflect that one of the hardest aspects of life in the agricultural community is “balancing the workload with a need for a personal life outside of agriculture and spending time with family.” However, the couple, parents to two adult children (and grandparents to four), have made it all blend together seamlessly.

“Over the years, we have had fun just working the ranch as a family,” Ron mentions, “and I have to chuckle at some of the comments I hear from my daughter or Debbie after a road trip.  Comments like, ‘Thanks for making me THAT person on road trips who says Man, those cows look good! or Dang, those cows need some grass! as we pass cattle grazing.’’’

“Other rewards of ranching include knowing you are responsible for the natural resources under your care and knowing you are improving those resources through your cattle management,” says Ron. 

Debbie adds that promoting the industry by sharing the benefits of beef’s role in a healthy diet with the general population is also intrinsically rewarding for them.  

When it comes to enjoying beef at home, the couple enjoys grilling Strip Steak or Teres Major (a steak cut from the shoulder blade). If heading out for a bite, Koppe Bridge Grill in College Station is always on their shortlist.

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