By Gary Cutrer
Published August 2011
Benny Cox, recognized by any sheep and goat producer who has bought or sold animals through Producers Livestock Auction as the guy in the know about the sheep and goat business in West Texas, has worked for the auction company for more than 40 years.
“My dad liked farming and along with that came livestock. We ran cattle. I just got in to this field and never left,” he said.
Now nearing the age of 60, Cox was in high school when he started feeding and helping to receive animals at Producers. Back then, in the 1960s, Producers was selling 15,000 to 20,000 head of sheep and goats a week, or about 600,000 to 800,000 head a year. They were running 220,000 to 260,000 cattle a year through the auction ring. These days, in average non-drought years, they will sell a little more than 300,000 sheep and goats and around 100,000 head of cattle in a year’s time, he said.
Cox attended Angelo State University, all the while working at Producers. He graduated from ASU in 1975 with an agriculture business degree.
“When I graduated the oil field was really hot,” Cox said, and he considered changing careers. “But I decided to stay here, and I haven’t had any regrets.”
Now, as sheep and goat sales manager at Producers, Cox is friends with or at least acquainted with just about everyone in Texas who buys and sells sheep and goats. And, he keeps the current market trends in his head and can quote current prices on feeder or fat lambs and kid goats.
That knowledge and those contacts will really come in handy during the coming year as Cox serves as president of the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association.
He first served on the TSGRA Marketing Committee a few years ago and was asked by Chico Denis of San Angelo if he would serve as an officer in the association. He served a year as 2nd vice president and another as 1st vice president. “I had a good experiences as vice president. I got to know people who I really didn’t know that well, though I might have spoken to them on the phone throughout the years."
“I don’t think it’s broke, so I don’t know that it needs any fixing,” he said. “We need to continue to be a big voice in the fight to maintain our present services, which include Wildlife Services, the Texas Animal Health Commission and all other associated functional organizations that strive to make the sheep and goat industry a viable business.”
Protecting private property rights and being a voice in opposition to those who would limit property rights and threaten animal agriculture is a very important job, he added.
“We need to continue to fight for our vested interest in private property rights. I think that’s one of the very most important things that Sheep and Goat Raisers does.”
Benny and Elaine Cox have two daughters--Natasha, 20, and Bryce, 19. Both young women attend college in San Angelo.
When Benny Cox is not working for Producers Auction Company, spending time with his family or wearing one of his many volunteer hats, most of his time is spent tending to livestock he has turned out or attending to his other business ventures.
“I can’t remember when I didn’t own cattle or sheep in some sort of partnership or my own individual grazing program, which may be cow and calf pairs on pasture or whatever. I didn’t always partner with somebody; Most of the time, however, I have,” he said. Until the drought got bad Cox was running sheep and goats north of San Angelo. “It got so dry that I sold all of my wool sheep. Dry weather made the decision for me.” Cox still has a small herd of goats.
Because he’s a man who works a lot and enjoys working, it’s not surprising to learn that Benny Cox extends those working hours more by volunteering many hours to community service.
He has been a long-time volunteer for San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo Association and was United Way chariman for San Angelo several years in a row. Cox has been involved with many functions that have benefited West Texas Boys Ranch and has raised money for West Texas Rehabilitation Center. While his girls attended elementary school at Trinity Lutheran, he served on the school board there, and as president of the school board as well. He has helped out Sonrisas Therapeutic Riding Club, ASU Block and Bridle Club, the original Lamb Blast, the San Angelo Sheep Run and Lamb Cook-off and, most recently, he led the organization of a volunteer firefighters benefit in San Angelo.
In his job at Producers, Cox has seen first hand the many changes that the sheep and goat business and the livestock business in general have undergone in the past four decades. Perhaps one of the more notable changes has been the decline in wool sheep and Angora goat numbers during the past 20 years. Of course, the loss of the import-tariff funded wool and mohair incentive program in the early 1990s made the biggest impact on numbers. And, depressed wool prices for many years prompted many ranchers to switch from wool sheep to no-shear hair sheep.
The arrival of the Boer goat in the mid 1990s gave many optimism, and indeed the South African Boer goat has caught on nationwide and is now a vital part of the sheep and goat economy.
The current drought in Texas, New Mexico and other Southwestern states, rated as “exceptional,” which is worse than “severe,” is making another change as ranchers and farmers sell off sheep, goats and cattle.
“I can see a tremendous decline in our wool sheep, numbers wise. And I have a really hard time believing that many of those numbers will be back,” Cox said. “Unless something hurries up and happens, a lot of these wool sheep will be gone. And, many of our nanny goats have been sold off due to drought conditions.”
Restocking once the drought eases and “normal” weather conditions return will be a challenge, he said, with most of the stocker ewes and nannies sold and moved out of Texas.
But the infrastructure is there, the prices are there and, with some help and fortitude, ranchers will recover.
“I think we’re going to continue to have good markets, on both sheep and goats,” Cox said. He added that the ethnic market and demand in this country is huge and that market will continue.
Because he so enjoys interacting directly with people, Cox is a little late transitioning to the digital communication game. During the interview for this article he made an announcement:
More information about Producers Livestock Auction Co. may be found here.