CSU alumna is first woman to lead Colorado Cattlemen’s Association

Erin Karney, a CSU alumna and sixth-generation cattle rancher, was recently appointed executive vice president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the top organization representing Colorado’s powerhouse cattle industry and its public policy concerns.

She will be the first woman to lead the organization in its 155-year history.

Since 2015, Karney has worked as the association’s director of industry advancement. She will succeed Terry Fankhauser as executive vice president and starts in August. Fankhauser is returning to his family cattle ranch in Kansas.

“I’m excited to help continue the legacy of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association while also advancing the association along with society and the industry,” Karney said. “I look forward to working with the members, board, and industry partners in this new capacity.”

Of serving as the association’s first female leader, she said: “Our demographics are changing, and this really highlights the leadership opportunities available in our industry.”

Karney will oversee the association’s daily operations and will serve as a high-profile representative of Colorado beef and livestock production more broadly. She said she is dedicated to promoting agriculture, particularly among urban audiences that might not fully understand the contributions of Colorado’s rural communities.

Her role is significant because beef is the No. 1 agricultural commodity in Colorado and a bedrock industry in the state. In 2020, Colorado beef generated $3.82 billion in revenue; that was more than half the total cash receipts from all crops and livestock in the state, amounting to $7.36 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Fankhauser expressed gratitude to the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, its members, and its partners. “CCA is in great hands moving forward with an excellent staff and an exceptional EVP in Erin Karney,” he said.
Karney grew up on a farm and ranch operation in Las Animas, in the Arkansas Valley of southeastern Colorado. Her family continues to ranch there, and Karney has her own herd of Angus crossbred cattle as part of the operation.

As a CSU student, Erin Karney was a member of the Seedstock Merchandising Team.

She graduated from Colorado State University in 2012 with bachelor’s degrees in both animal science and agricultural business. Karney went on to earn a master’s degree in meat science from CSU in 2014; she conducted research related to the aging of sirloin and strip loin steaks.

While at CSU, Karney was a member of a national champion meat-judging team and then coached the team. She also was a member of the Seedstock Merchandising Team.

Among other activities, Karney soon will lead the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association in moving its offices from Arvada to the historic Livestock Exchange Building at the National Western Center, where it was housed for many years.

Association offices will neighbor the Terra building, which will open in June on the new CSU Spur campus. CSU Spur is focused on public education, research, and community outreach on the topics of food, water, and animal and human health. The CSU System is a founding partner in development of the National Western Center and has worked closely with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and other stakeholders in envisioning the center’s role in celebrating the state’s Western heritage while advancing agribusiness innovation for a robust future.