Tim Pennell stands apart from the typical Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) member. Most of them were raised on a cattle ranch, learning the ropes almost from birth. They are part of a multi-generation family of cattle raisers who loved the lifestyle and can't think of anything else they would rather do. Tim's father was a CPA.
But Tim was raised in Texas' cattle country and, as a young boy, working with cattle to earn some spending money was almost inevitable. Even though the work was hard and the hours were long, he came to love the business.
"In the fifties during the drought the family moved to Austin," he said when I asked him how he got his start. "As a teenager, I worked on the weekends and summers for Capitol Cattle Co."
Those were the years that led him down that long and convoluted path toward a lifetime in the cattle business. His first step was earning a degree in agri-business from Southwest Texas State University, now Texas State University, in San Marcos.
"I started working for Clinton Cattle Company, order buying cattle out of college. I started running yearlings and feeding cattle in the early 70’s you know, buy a hundred, and with the profits have enough equity to buy a hundred and twenty. Being young and ambitious I thought more numbers was the way to go. Then came the wreck of 73 and it taught me a valuable lesson.
“I sold the last of the cattle I owned, went to my banker, turned in the proceeds which weren’t enough to pay all of my loans and told him that was all of the money I had, couldn’t pay my note, and didn’t know how I was going to pay him."
Fortunately, the banker had faith in him. "He told I was going to pay him back," said Pennell, "and loaned me enough money to start over. I paid him off the next year."
It was a costly lesson, painfully learned, that you need to build equity and not just buy more cattle. From that lesson a long and prosperous career began.
He began to build equity, a tough thing to do in an industry that was as volatile as the cattle business was during the last quarter of the twentieth century. In 1978, he built some pens near Westhoff, Texas, about an hour and a half east of San Antonio, and started his own cattle brokerage business.
In 2000, he had the opportunity to sell his brokerage business and devoted more time to his cow/calf and yearling business. That's when he began doing more with the Texas and Southwest Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA).
"The business had been good to me and I thought it was time to give back," he said.
Today, he's moved from 30+years in the brokerage business to cattle raiser, operating a cow/calf, stocker and feeder operation. Like every member of the CBB, he earned his appointment with a lot of activity with trade associations, including 30 years with TSCRA, and 30 years with the Texas Cattle Feeders Association and the Farm Bureau. In addition, he's volunteered his time with the Pecan Valley Water District Board; the Soil Conservation District; the Dewitt County Medical Foundation, and the Chisolm Trail Museum.
But it is the CBB that gets his highest praise. Beginning the final year of his three-year appointment, he's even more enthusiastic about the organization than he was on his first day.
"The Cattlemen's Beef Board is the best thing the industry has ever done," he said. "When we need to speak up, they are a great resource of people who can talk about our industry and defend our rights. This is a great industry filled with great people and some of the best are on the Board."
Talking about the future, he said, "The cattle industry is changing and change scares most people but it’s inevitable and we have to adapt to change and look for the good side. The CBB is doing a great job of
managing change, too. We have committees that do great work and we change those committee members regularly to keep new blood and fresh ideas flowing."