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DAA: Patricia L. Houghton

Patricia Houghton

Patricia L. Houghton

McCook, NE | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2010

Patsy Houghton grew up on a cow-calf operation near Tipton, Kansas, where documents signed by Ulysses S. Grant, Chester A. Arthur, and Benjamin Harrison attest to the history of the ranch her family homesteaded in 1872. Like her ancestors, Houghton is a pioneer. When she and a partner built a company to produce genetically superiorbred females for ranchers—heifers that excel in on-ranch performance while producing high-quality, consistent beef products—they started a new segment in the beef industry. After earning her doctorate at Purdue with professor of animal sciences Ronald P. Lemenager, Houghton became an Extension Beef Specialist at Kansas State University. There she and a colleague implemented a program that trained student technicians for artificial insemination in beef herds. The program allowed Houghton to collect data comparing the effectiveness of various estrus synchronization protocols, and it gave her the idea for her own facility. Heartland Cattle Company began in 1990 with construction of pen space for 1,680 head. Based on demand, the company expanded even before it opened. Today the business is owned solely by Houghton and has a yard capacity of 4,000 head, most of its original customers, and a waitlist. An extensive research program further sets Heartland apart from its competitors. The company injects nearly $4 million into the local economy annually. Houghton is involved in every detail of the operation, but credits her hardworking crew of six: “Ours is a story of how to do things with integrity, work ethic, and attention to detail to get it done right, year in and year out.” Today the concept of professional heifer development is embraced by industry leaders and producers, who have invited Houghton to speak at more than 250 state, regional, national, and international meetings. She makes time for community service, as well, and has just completed her second three-year term on the board of McCook Community Hospital. She has hosted the Purdue Animal Science industry tour several times and was the keynote speaker for Purdue’s spring 2009 Book- Harmon Leadership Forum. “Universities are there not to tell you what to think, but to teach you how to think. I am in the problem-solving business; if I can solve customers’problems cost-effectively, they’ll be with me forever. The beginning of understanding that concept was my graduate work at Purdue.”