Students learn elements of beef production at the Purebred Beef Education Unit
The production of beef cattle in the United States is the most important segment of American agriculture, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. There are over 800,000 American ranchers and cattle producers who strive to produce and develop beef to industry standards for consumers.
At the Kansas State Purebred Beef Education Unit, the breeding program provides educational and hands-on experience in livestock production that helps students find their role in the industry.
“Of all the animal units at K-State, this is probably the one our students in the department have the most contact with simply because it is ideally located, having animals that go to the Little American Royal which is sponsored by the K-State Block & Bridle, and being the one that supplies a large portion of the beef cattle for the courses taught in the department, ”said Bob Weber, professor and extension specialist in Beef Cattle and Genetics.
The Purebred Beef Education Unit structures its mission by providing undergraduates with “hands-on experience in the breeding, feeding, management and marketing of purebred seed stocks” and providing the opportunity to assess quality cattle through cattle breeding and other general animal science courses in K-State. animal science program.
“Semen Stock” is a term used to describe a specialized operation of cows and calves with purebred and registered cattle to bring genetic improvements to animals that will ultimately benefit the entire beef industry. .
The unit has around 300 head of purebred cattle in the university-owned program which are only used for breeding purposes. The cattle breeds in the herd are Angus, Hereford and Simmental cows.
The cattle raised in this unit are widely used by students and their research projects. The variety of projects carried out depends on what is currently sought by the industry, such as a study on responses to vaccinations.
The unit is headed by a unit manager who is employed full time, and all other unit operations are carried out through the work of the students. Depending on the time of year, Weber said, there are typically between three and 12 student workers on the unit.
“We have a good number of students from farming and ranching backgrounds who enjoy working in this environment and are considering returning to production farming,” Weber said. “But sometimes we have students who come and want to learn who haven’t had that experience in cattle production.
Students working in the unit are expected to take care of a variety of tasks including daily feeding and maintenance, monitoring the health of each animal, vaccination, preparing for the Legacy sale, moving animals for the course and preparation of show cattle for the little American. Royal every spring.
“Growing up on a cow and calf farm in Montana, I already had some knowledge of cattle before I started working on the unit,” said Dan Johnson, Agri-Food Manager. “Even though I’ve had this other experience before, I actually learned a lot about Kansas cattle production and the purebred industry, and also other things like burning dead grass every spring. , which was something completely new to me. “
Johnson said he also had some livestock marketing experience before he started working on the unit, but after helping with the annual sale he had the opportunity to learn more about the work behind the scenes with auctions.
“I grew up on a beef farm and was able to manage my college’s cattle herd, so I already had that experience with cattle,” said Justus Bartonek, senior in agricultural economics. “However, I think the most interesting part of working in the purebred unit is being in this working atmosphere and being able to forget about school.”
Student workers on the unit are not only able to gain more experience in livestock production and help with sales, but they also have the opportunity to network with other producers in the industry.
“I really enjoy making connections with cattle experts and producers from all over the industry,” Bartonek said. “It’s a great opportunity to get to know these people for relationships that I will have later in life.”
Weber said students at the unit gain experience raising animals through the institution’s embryo transfer and artificial insemination programs.
Embryo transfer involves removing fertilized eggs from a cow with the genetics desired by producers and implanting those eggs into several other carrier cows to produce more offspring at the same time. Artificial insemination involves inserting semen into a cow to produce offspring with certain characteristics.
Some embryo and sperm donations are given to the unit; however, the university maintains the cattle herd, the unit breeding program and the selection of targets within the program.
The purebred beef unit recently built a new head office and bull and heifer development center. The Bull and Heifer Development Center has an electronic system to measure the individual feed intake of the animals and allows the precise calculation of feed efficiency.
Improving the feed efficiency of beef production through breeding and management offers the potential to improve the sustainability and profitability of beef production in Kansas. The research data will be used in the unit’s breeding program to select more efficient animals.
On what is now K-State’s current campus, the first structure built after legislative action was a large barn that housed cattle in 1872. Subsequently, several different barns were built to house other animals. In the mid-1950s, the barn that once housed purebred beef cattle caught fire and burned to the ground, immediately prompting legislative funds to build a replacement barn.
This new barn was completed in the 1960s and has been used for teaching purposes ever since. In this barn there are rooms for the students to live and work in the barn, with additional student help every hour. This building has since been replaced with a newer, more modern building for the unit near the Stanley Stout Center.
Each year, the unit holds an annual “Legacy Sale” on the first Friday in March. With this, the students enrolled in the cattle sales management class plan and prepare for the cattle sale.
“I really enjoyed helping out with the Legacy sale,” said Rachael Buzanowski, junior in animal science and industry. “It’s really great to be able to see all the people who support the work that we do at the unit.
This sale markets the unit’s bulls, purebred cows and heifers to guest cattle breeders from different parts of the region, and is the only time in the year that the purebred unit sells its animals. herd to herders and cattle ranchers.
“The unit really serves both students and the public,” Weber said. “It is a very important place for our customers but also for our students to interface the department in the state. This provides good two-way communication to know the needs of the cattle ranchers in the state, but also a great place of education for students. “
Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in a series featuring K-State ranching units. Next week’s story will feature the Beef Storage Unit.