Sometimes landing your dream job takes more than just the notion that you can do it. It takes a combination of education, experience and just a little networking to get there. For Matt Etheredge, that dream job is to serve as a general manager for a large, diverse cow-calf or stocker operation. And he’s headed down the right path.

Etheredge currently is the assistant manager for the historic Spade Ranches, a group of ranches each run by its own manager and overseen by John Welch, general manager. Etheredge took that position upon graduating from the fairly new King Ranch Institute of Ranch Management at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. The program was developed to help build business leaders for the ranching industry that could apply new approaches along side traditional business practices.

Etheredge received his bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University in 1998 and then worked at his father’s cattle order buying business in Abilene. Later he worked for Cattle Town Feeders in Hereford and at King Ranch. When he heard about KRIRM, he was one of the first students to apply for the program, in 2004. “I was excited for the opportunity to learn from well-respected figures in the cattle industry and to better balance my knowledge of ranch management in relation to range, financials, wildlife and livestock,” he says.

The program takes a systems approach to help students understand how to implement the ranch owner’s vision and evaluate goals and objectives using strategic planning. “The systematic approach taught at the institute helped me evaluate different ranch scenarios from a 30,000-foot level. This allows you to observe and anticipate how interventions in management might affect, either positively or negatively, other areas that you might not have intended to be manipulated.”

The program also provided Etheredge with a strong network of industry professionals, scientists, professors and friends that now serve as mentors, consultants and colleagues.

Etheredge also has become involved in industry organizations, such as Texas and Southwest Cattle Raisers Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, to build leadership skills that he hopes will help make positive impacts for the livestock industry. Just this year, he participated in NCBA’s Young Cattlemen’s Conference where he experienced first-hand how these organizations bring livestock producers to Capitol Hill to educate their Congressional delegates about important issues impacting this industry. 

King Ranch Institute of Ranch Management

Barry Dunn, executive director of the institute, says that they accept only two applicants a year and encourage recent B.S. graduates to obtain at least two years of work experience in the ranching business before applying to the institute.

At the end of the two-year program, KRIRM graduates will receive a Master of Science degree in Agribusiness from Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Some key strategies of the institute include:

  • To teach students to see the big picture, the program follows a systems approach to learning about the complex business of ranching.
  • To give students outside perspective, the program enhances the curriculum by using invited lectureships, an annual symposium and other mediums.
  • To provide students with hands-on experience, the program uses the King Ranch and other large ranches as applied teaching laboratories.
  • To give students access to one of the top wildlife research centers in the world, the institute leverages the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute as a model of success and a sister institute for collaboration.
  • To teach students to apply what’s been learned, the institute provides internships for them with selected ranches and uses successful ranch managers as mentors.

    For more information on KRIRM, visit the Web site at