Lifelong Learning Opportunities

Published on Thu, 01/06/2022 - 11:00am

Lifelong Learning Opportunities.

 By Maura Keller.

 Today’s agricultural educational programs are far more learner centered, innovative and relevant to immediate student needs than ever before. Whether you are looking for a week-long seminar to enhance specific skills or a full-length degree program that will further enhance your career within the dairy or cattle industry, there are options aplenty at many colleges and universities dotting the nation.

Missouri State University
The Animal Science Department at Missouri State University offers both a major and minor in both Animal Science and Equine Science. Other academic opportunities include a Ranch Management Certificate, which can be paired easily with any degree in the College of Agriculture, and a Companion Animal Minor. MSU also offers degree options in Ag Communications, Ag Business, and Plant Science.

According to Natalie Mook, animal science instructor, IHSA Equestrian Team Coach at Missouri State University, there also are many other co-curricular opportunities that are available at the university.

For instance, the MSU Cattlemen’s Association is heavily involved regionally and nationally in the national Cattlemen’s Beef Association. The Block and Bridle club is involved with showing the Hereford cattle bred and raised at MSU’s Journagan Ranch. Abd the Equestrian Team competes in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association in both western and hunt seat.

“The MSU Ranch Horse Team competes in the American Stock Horse Association in the events of cattle work, ranch trail, ranch pleasure, and reining,” Mook says.

All academic and co-curricular programs get the opportunity to utilize the Darr Agriculture Center, Shealy Farm, and the Journagan Ranch. The Darr Facility has an indoor arena, covered outdoor arena, stalling area, pastures, and houses our quality equine herd and cattle year around. The Shealy farm is used for cattle research and grazing management. Journagan Ranch houses the program’s elite Herford herd.

Missouri State University College of Ag is also generous with scholarships, awarding 100+ students with scholarships each year. Students must apply to the university and for scholarships by the March 1 deadline to be eligible.

“Choosing an animal science or equine science degree is beneficial for students to get them prepared for all aspects of the livestock industry,” Mook says. “The coursework in the degree encompasses nutrition, reproduction, management, and marketing. The academic experience at MSU gives students an extensive hands-on experience to help students be successful in the animal/livestock industry.”

In the future, Missouri State Agriculture is adding a Companion Animal Building, Precision AG Building, and a Livestock Show Barn, offering a great addition to enhance student learning and opportunities.

“One of the unique aspects of Missouri State is that the Journagan Ranch is the 15th largest herd of registered Hereford cattle in the U.S., as well as the largest university-owned registered Hereford herd,” Mook says. “This provides a unique aspect to our Animal Science classes by giving students the opportunity to work with high-quality Hereford cattle and assist with the yearly sale of our sale preparation class.”
Montana State University
The Dan Scott Ranch Management Program that Rachel Frost, program lead, department of animal and range sciences, supervises at Montana State University offers a unique degree called Ranching Systems that, despite its broad curriculum, may be one of the more career specific degrees for ranching.

As Frost explains, the courses encompass animal science, rangeland ecology, and business management with the intent of training future managers of both family owned and absentee or corporate owned ranches.  

“In a single semester a student could be enrolled in an accounting course, an international business course, a livestock nutrition class, and a natural resources ecology course,” Frost says. “This is because knowledge in all of these elements is needed to successfully manage a ranch.”

Additionally, students in the Ranching Systems Degree pair their academic leaning with internships on working ranches where they gain real-world experience in ranch economics, grazing management and production.

“The Dan Scott Ranch Management Program and Ranching Systems degree offer hands-on experience to students and connections within an industry where jobs are often still advertised through word of mouth,” Frost says.

The reason for those within the cattle and dairy industries should consider getting a degree is quite simple: The industries are constantly changing and adapting as new technologies, management practices and regulations emerge.

As Frost points out, not only does a college degree provide you with the relevant information to date on livestock production, but it equips graduates with the ability to find the correct answers and resources for assistance to adapt as the industry evolves.

“There is so much information out there at the tip of our fingers that the greatest challenge is not necessarily a lack of knowledge on a particular topic, but a lack of discernment to sort through the available information to find what is accurate and applicable to your situation and environment,” Frost says. “The problem solving and critical thinking skills that are inherent in Ranching Systems and production agriculture related degrees help graduates do this effectively.”

Additionally, pursuing degrees that are specific to your eventual career provides a depth of knowledge that would be impossible to attain through other means. Courses within degree programs are selected to build on each other in a logical way, and to collectively contribute to the overall learning objectives of the degree program, including an understanding of how courses such as grazing management and livestock nutrition interrelate, potentially saving you some lessons learned the hard way.

The Dan Scott Ranch Management Program and the Ranching Systems degree offered through the Department of Animal and Range Sciences at Montana State University is unique in multiple ways. According to Frost, it is a limited admissions degree that is capped at 10 entrants annually. Admission is determined during the Fall of their sophomore year when students that meet the minimum GPA and course credit requirements submit a detailed application to be reviewed by the program lead and the steering committee.

“The student’s work history, ranch experience and career goals are considered as criteria for admission along with academic performance,” Frost says. “Successfully admitted students are then eligible to take the six courses specific to Ranching Systems majors, including the internship credits on ranches. For all internships, students are strategically matched with host ranches by the Program Lead to ensure that their summer work experiences meet the goals of the Program and the students individual learning goals for specific skills. The Ranching Systems courses also offer unique opportunities for students to connect with professional ranch managers and other industry leaders to further facilitate their education and eventual employment.”

University of Nebraska–Lincoln
As Alli Raymond, recruitment coordinator/academic advisor in the Animal Science program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, explains the university’s undergraduate program offers seven degree options that prepare students for a wide variety of career opportunities. Those that would prepare students interested in the dairy/cattle/ranching industries include the meat science, food animal production and management, and the business and communication options.  

“Coursework that will prepare students for careers in these industries include fundamental principles and applied aspects of animal nutrition, breeding and genetics, animal physiology and endocrinology, meat science and meat culinology, applications of molecular biology, welfare, animal systems analysis, animal biological systems, statistics and livestock, meat animal, and meat evaluation courses,” Raymond says.

With many research and extension stations across Nebraska and state-of-the-art animal science facilities on UNL’s East Campus, the university is equipped to provide hands-on learning situations in many environments offering students a well-rounded education in classroom instruction as well as in real-world settings. Several of these research and extension stations are within an hour of Lincoln and are easily accessible to students and faculty members for hands-on learning opportunities. They also provide a chance for students to obtain employment, whether it is during the school year or an internship over the summer.   

“Our graduate program offers masters and doctoral degrees in ruminant and nonruminant nutrition, physiology, animal breeding and genetics, and meat science and muscle biology. As well as a beef cattle nutrition minor,” Raymond says.

The Ruminant Nutrition program has focused on several general areas. One of the greatest efforts has been to explore the utilization in finishing diets of byproducts from the grain milling industry.

According to Raymond, the focus has been to use animal feeding and metabolism studies to develop practical applications as well as a basic nutritional understanding of these products. Other areas of research include the evaluation of diet formulation on environmental issues, beef systems, technologies for the feedlot industry, growth promoting hormone implants, and mineral nutrition of beef cows.  

General areas of research in physiology include factors affecting gonadal development (ovarian and testis) and sex differentiation, factors affecting embryo development and reproductive hormone research, and genes regulating egg and sperm function.

“The breeding and genetics group is known for its historical and recent accomplishments in the development and application of quantitative genetics and molecular genetics approaches for improvement of beef, swine, poultry, sheep, and horses,” Raymond says. The range of current research efforts spans quantitative to molecular investigations, and is characterized by well-funded, team-oriented, multi-disciplinary projects. General areas of research include development and evaluation of statistical approaches in animal breeding and identification of genes and genetic variants affecting a large variety of traits across different species.  The meat science and muscle biology program has research that ranges from animal growth and development, through fresh meats and processed/manufactured meat products.

“Regardless of what industry you’re interested in the world is rapidly changing and there are new technologies coming out all the time,” Raymond says. “Getting a degree will help students stay current and knowledgeable about these changes and make them a relevant candidate for the career opportunities in front of them. Also, the connections that you make while you’re in college are going to significantly impact the opportunities that are presented to you. You’re here to get an education, but you’re also building a network of individuals who are your peers, professors, and industry leaders.”  

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln also now offers a Master of Applied Science with a specialization in beef cattle production. This program is designed to be done all online or can be done in a hybrid format (online/in person). It offers students with an interest in beef cattle production, the opportunity to become more familiar with nutrition, meat science, genetics, and growth topics in an online program. The Beef Cattle Production Specialization in the MAS is a flexible and personalized practitioner degree program that provides students with opportunities to become lifelong learners utilizing the University’s Beef Cattle resources after they complete their degree.

And for students interested in pursuing a career in beef feedyard management or other related agribusiness areas, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers the Timmerman Feedyard Management Internship program. The purpose of the internship is to train undergraduate students in feedyard management to fill the growing need for trained, responsible individuals who can enter management positions in feedyards.

“The Timmerman Feedyard Management Internship is a nationally renowned feedyard management training program, exclusive to UNL, which has been producing feedyard management and industry leaders since 1988, the internship trains students through comprehensive feedyard management classes and with real world experiences in high caliber feedyards,” Raymond says.

University of Florida
The Animal Sciences undergraduate major at the University of Florida has a food animal specialization for those students interested in beef, dairy, and/or meats industries. According to Albert De Vries, professor, dairy management and economics at the University of Florida, this specialization offers courses in these disciplines and requires students to take courses in agricultural economics.  

“Free course electives allow students to customize their course of study according to their specific interest. The specialization also requires students to do an internship,” De Vries says. “This specialization offers students a science-based understanding of the food animal industry and aims to make students ready for jobs in these industries.”
Todd Thrift, associate professor in the Animal Science Department, Beef Cattle Management at the University of Florida, specifically teaches beef courses at the University of Florida. “We place several students each year into management positions her in FL and all over the gulf coast,” Thrift says. “Florida has some of the largest ranches in the country. Most of these ranches are managed or owned by Animal Science graduates. Students with beef cattle interest can design a program to take the following courses:

• Cow Calf Management. Five-credit course that focuses on industry structure, genetics, and management
• Stocker Feedlot Management.  Two-credit course that focuses on postweaning management with special emphasis on economics and retained ownership.
• Seedstock Marketing and Management. Three-credit course that focuses on the purebred and seedstock industry including a hands on bull and heifer sale.
• Beef Practicum. Four credits over a year in which students learn and do all of the management practices required including ID, castration, performance testing, etc.
“Very few universities offer this many credits in beef specific coursework in addition to this level of hands on learning,” Thrift says. “These are in addition to the core courses in genetics, nutrition, meats, livestock and meat evaluation, and reproduction. Students leave here with a good understanding of basic science and practical application.”

De Vries adds that the Animal Sciences major, including the food animal specialization, teaches students the science behind the processes in these industries, teaches students to learn and be critical thinkers, exposes them to new ideas and ongoing research, and teaches skills to be successful on the job. An undergraduate degree in Animal Sciences also allows students to build a network of peers and industry leaders.

“There are a tremendous number of jobs available in animal agriculture for students that have the training and are flexible about where they live,” Thrift says. “With modern use of ultrasound for carcass and pregnancy diagnosis, oocyte pickup and embryo transfer, students must be at the top of their game with modern technology while maintaining the use of tried and true husbandry practices. In addition, our program challenges them to think about their decisions from a financial standpoint. Everything has a cost benefit.  One of my goals is to facilitate critical thinking in our students who will one day be making these decisions on ranches.”

Students with an interest in dairy science also have the option to participate in the U.S. Dairy Education and Training Consortium and a new specialization will be added to the Animal Sciences undergraduate major that offers an even greater tailored program of study.

Students can participate in Meats, Livestock, Horse, Meat Animal Evaluation Teams. They are exposed to Ranching here in Florida and the Gulf Coast as well as national and internationally.  

“We have a brand new state-of-the art Beef Teaching facility right here on campus and opportunities for students to live and work at our Beef, Horse, Swine, and Meats units,” De Vries says. “The Florida Cattlemen’s Association and the Florida Cattle industry are huge supporters of our program. Our beef program is very unique compared to others in that our ranching occurs in a hot humid environment with lots of challenges. Our program is tailored to place students to work in the Gulf Coast but they have a skill set that will allow them to work anywhere in the world.”