If you were to have asked Dr. Tom Tabler at the beginning of his career where he expected to be in 30 years, his answer would not have been anywhere close to what he’s actually doing.
Born and raised in Arkansas, Tabler attended the University of Arkansas to obtain his Bachelor of Science, Master of Science and Ph.D. All three of his degrees pertained to poultry science.
“I never expected to end up at Mississippi State,” Tabler said. “I worked for a chicken company right after I got my bachelor’s degree. When I met my wife, I went to work for her grandfather who had four chicken houses, hogs and cattle. After he passed away, I moved backed to Fayetteville to run the chicken houses at Arkansas. I managed those for 21 years. My appointment at Arkansas was 50 percent research and 50 percent Extension.”
Tabler’s research specialties are poultry housing, environmental management, litter quality and energy efficient lighting options. He serves Mississippi State University as a 100 percent Extension professor where he is responsible for the following duties, according to the MSU Department of Poultry Science’s website:
- Support and assist the Mississippi poultry industry
- Work with industry personnel and growers to achieve optimum performance and production goals
- Assist with poultry housing and management practices that produce optimum environmental and animal welfare conditions for the Mississippi poultry industry
- Conduct applied research that provides lighting information that will be beneficial as the industry and it’s growers transitions from incandescent bulbs to more energy efficient alternatives
“Most of what I do is work with the commercial side of the industry,” Tabler said. “This means me schedule is never the same. It depends on what calls I get from poultry farmers. One day I might be pulling water samples for one farmer, while the next day, I may be working on ventilation for another producer.”
Nominated by Mississippi Poultry Association President Mark Leggett, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation named Tabler the 2021 Agricultural Research Award recipient in large part due to his outreach efforts.
“Dr. Tabler drives all over the state at the request of any poultry farmer with a lighting, water, litter, disease or feed problem,” Leggett said in his nomination form. “He is tireless in helping solve problems. He speaks at all kinds of events and writes articles that appear in publications across the country. Several years ago, he did an extensive litter analysis in Mississippi poultry houses. Tom is always ready to help growers with valuable expertise.”
As the winner of this award, Tabler received $4,500 cash to fund program support, including graduate students or research operations. He plans to put the funds toward his two graduate students’ research to further help the poultry industry.
“Less than 2% of us feed the other 98% of us,” Tabler said. “Because of that, those of us that do farm and understand farming have to continuously get better at what we do so that when people go to the grocery story, there is something on the shelves to eat. Through my research, I try to help us all get better.”