CSU alumnus counts cows as national cattle statistician

Erik Petrovich

When Michael Klamm goes to bed at night, he doesn’t count sheep to get to sleep. Instead, he counts cows. Klamm, the new national cattle statistician for the National Agriculture Statistics Service, a USDA agency, said it’s just a part of the job.

A cow at Colorado State's Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center. An alumnus of CSU is counting all of the cattle in the country through a statistics model.
A cow at Colorado State University’s Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center. An alumnus of CSU is counting all of the cattle in the country through a statistics model. (Photo credit: Emma Brokaw.)

As the national cattle statistician, it is not Klamm’s job to tell people what is right and wrong about the industry. He does not advise companies or organizations and does not take sides. Instead, he takes an objective approach, working with several data gathering models to find out more about the number and variety of cattle in the United States.

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For example, he has found that the number of cattle in the U.S. is decreasing. In the 1970s, there were more than 130 million cattle in the U.S., but in the most recent report, Klamm counted only 89.8 million cattle, almost half the amount observed just 40 years ago.

 After growing up on his family farm in southern Colorado, Klamm said he always knew he would go to CSU. Klamm graduated from CSU in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business and a minor in economics. He first majored in math, but changed to agricultural business after being persuaded by his microeconomics professor, Christopher Goemans.

Klamm ended up being a teacher’s assistant for Goemans for several years after switching to the agricultural business department. Between his junior and senior years at CSU, he took an internship at a NASS office in southern Colorado. After graduating, Klamm wanted to go back to his family farm.

“I never dreamed I’d be working for the USDA, but the farm just wasn’t big enough,” Klamm said. “I kind of had to do what everyone else does and find a job outside the farm.” 

Klamm ended up going back to NASS, the agency he interned with, to begin his career in agricultural statistics. He traveled to Missouri to work in a field office in 2010, a job he kept for more than three years.

A cow at Colorado State's Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center. An alumnus of CSU is counting all of the cattle in the country through a statistics model. (Photo courtesy of Emma Brokaw.)
A cow at Colorado State’s Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center. An alumnus of CSU is counting all of the cattle in the country through a statistics model. (Photo credit: Emma Brokaw.)

In 2013, Klamm moved to Washington, and continued to climb up the rungs of the agricultural ladder in his new position as the national turkey and poultry statistician. But, his job working with turkeys and poultry was not satisfying enough for him.

“The turkey job is a big job in itself, but I grew up on a cattle farm,” Klamm said. “My background is in cattle.”

In 2015, Klamm became the national cattle statistician, a job he said he plans to keep for years to come. It is not the end of the road for his career, though — the next rung on the ladder is management.

“I’m loving it — really enjoying it,” Klamm said. “I can see myself working here for a while. The next step is to be a regional deputy or a section head somewhere out in the United States.”

In addition to his new role in NASS, Klamm sits on the advisory board for the CSU Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

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Professor Gregory Perry, head of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, said that while he never worked with Klamm during his studies at CSU, he is seen as one of the department’s most enterprising alumni.

“We’ve been watching him rise,” Perry said. “He’s come up very rapidly in USDA statistics. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran that organization one day.”

Collegian City Beat Reporter Erik Petrovich can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @EAPetrovich.