Dr. Robert Peters Retires

The faculty, staff and students of the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences congratulate Dr. Bob Peters on his long and successful career.

Image Credit: Edwin Remsberg

June 30, 2021 Jonathan Stephanoff

January 7, 1980 marked Dr. Bob Peters’ first day on the job at the University of Maryland as an educator, dairy researcher and Extension Specialist. It was a few days short of 41 years later that he retired. Dr. Peters spoke of always looking forward to going to work, “For that, I am forever thankful to the University and my colleagues, staff, students, as well as the producer and allied industry friends I have had the pleasure of working with during my tenure.”

Early on, Dr. Peters never pictured himself becoming an academic or a research specialist. He grew up in southwest Minnesota on his family’s 160-acre dairy farm and spent many years milking and tending their herd with his father. He studied animal science and physiology at the University of Minnesota, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1973 and a master’s degree in 1975. From there he went to Michigan State University for his Ph.D., under the tutelage of Dr. Allen Tucker.

It was at an annual meeting of the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) in the summer of 1979 that he met Dr. Dick Davis, then chair of the Department of Dairy Science at University of Maryland, who encouraged him to apply for the Dairy Extension Specialist opening in his department.

During his first years in Extension, Dr. Peters was able to be very hands-on with the dairy farms in Maryland. One of his first projects took him all over the state to investigate an emerging problem of stray voltage from power lines affecting livestock. He consulted with farmers at over 50 farms and worked with the power companies to resolve several of the issues that led to stray voltage. He also conducted dairy research and trained graduate students in partnership with Dr. Max Paape at the USDA’s Milk Secretion and Mastitis Laboratory.  This collaboration was highly rewarding and provided data on mastitis control that was useful in his Extension education programs.

Throughout his 40 years working with the dairy industry of Maryland, Dr. Peters saw consolidation across the state and the number of farms decline. Technology and information dissemination changed, so too did Extension programming. He helped to create the Maryland Dairy Industry Association which has given dairy farmers a more substantial voice in politics, regional markets, and with the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

One of his later programs was launching the Breakfast on the Farm program in Maryland, an event designed to acquaint the general public with the inner workings of an active farm, and to build trust with consumers in the safety of food production, humane care of farm animals, and farmer’s commitment to environmental stewardship.

In his last several years he began teaching more and found a number of students had limited experience with conventional agriculture. “You have to design your teachings for students that never laid a hand on a chick or a cow. It’s kind of fun to be that person to introduce animal science to these students,” he wrote in a Maryland Milk Moos Newsletter article. Dr. Peters offered some closing guidance:

“Looking back, my advice for youth seeking a successful career and life in general is to follow your interests, build good relationships with friends, neighbors, and teachers, and seek out the best advice you can from those you trust. Search out your options. Key conversations will likely create opportunities that open doors for continued growth and development. Value the relationships you have in your life and work hard on your priorities. Once these basics are in place and with some faith in the future, the rest will often fall in place for success.”

Dr. Peters is planning to continue his interest in international travel during retirement. He and his wife, Cathy, have a group of friends that have similar interests and have planned two trips this year, the first in early September with a Rhine River Cruise and a second trip in December through the Panama Canal and along the coast of South America, ending in Lima, Peru.

The faculty, staff and students of the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences congratulate Dr. Bob Peters on his long and successful career.