Internships have become a staple for college students looking to gain an understanding of and more experience with a business or company within their interest area.
The University of Missouri Division of Animal Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources has unveiled a new internship, which began this semester, focused on cattle herd management. The Loewenberg Beef Cattle Management Internship will allow four to six CAFNR students to team up and handle the day-to-day operations of a Salers herd.
The Salers herd, made up of around 100 Salers, was donated by Bruce Loewenberg.
Loewenberg has been a longtime supporter of CAFNR, and his gifts have come in many forms. Recently, his donations have been in the form of Salers cattle. Loewenberg and the Division of Animal Sciences have collaborated during the past two years, with Loewenberg donating a handful of Salers heifers each year. His most recent gift, made in May, is his biggest yet – and has led to the creation of this internship.
“The donation of his herd really created a unique opportunity,” said Tom McFadden, director, Division of Animal Sciences. “As we’re trying to do some different things with our curriculum, this donation created a golden opportunity for us.
“That gift opened up a tremendous opportunity for us moving forward.”
McFadden said the Division of Animal Sciences is focused on giving students more real-world opportunities with the goal of better preparing students for when they graduate.
“While they get opportunities in our classes to learn and to practice, they don’t get the overall responsibility,” McFadden said. “You learn very quickly that the more you give the students an opportunity, the higher they raise their own bar. They become very responsible to each other on the team, very prideful. There is some trial and error. The real difference is that this is on them. That’s what sets it apart. This isn’t a chemistry experiment where we gather a group of cattle and the students go through and vaccinate them and we’ve set it up for them to succeed.
“We’re not focused on producing worker bees. We’re focused on producing leaders.”
CAFNR already has its first group of students for the internship. There were 14 applicants and five were chosen. Sophomore Abilene Gatson, juniors Zach Duncan, Kaitlin Epperson and Erin Greeley, and senior Maddie Grant are the first students to take the reins of the Salers herd. All five are Division of Animal Sciences majors.
“Being a part of this internship is really exciting,” said Grant, who grew up just outside of Columbia. “I’ve grown up with cattle all my life, but my dad has always made the big decisions. Now, we’re making those choices as a team. The opportunity to manage these cattle as if they were our own is extremely important. Many people leave college without the practical application of knowledge gained in the classroom. This internship will allow us to use what we’ve learned in a real-world setting, which will help us in the future with our own herds and in our careers.”
While there will be mentors, the students will make the management decisions that cattle owners everywhere make each day.
“This is an important opportunity that I feel very privileged to be a part of,” Greeley said. “We get to make everyday decisions for our herd that will teach us many life lessons that we can carry with us into the future. Hands-on learning is the best learning in my opinion, and that is exactly what we get to do.
“We get to talk with some of the best professors at Mizzou one-on-one and learn many new things we would probably never get the opportunity to do. Although we are just starting out, I am very excited to see where we can take this herd and how we can improve it for the next set of interns to learn from. I am so grateful to be one of the first people to experience this internship.”
Those decisions will vary day-to-day. McFadden said the students will be in charge of contacting external partners for numerous items, such as sourcing semen or marketing. The students will be in charge of putting together a business plan and implementing that plan. The plan not only deals with the cattle, but with the land use as well.
“The decisions are going to start coming hard and fast,” he said. “They’re going to have to balance the day-to-day decisions with their long-term plans. It’s a bit of a challenge, but the first group always has a few more challenges placed on them.”
Along with Loewenberg, Mike Smith and Bryon Wiegand, professors, and Kenneth Ladyman, beef farm manager, will all serve as advisors to the students. Both Smith and Wiegand are William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence winners and members of the CAFNR Excellence in Teaching Academy. Both have also won awards for advising.
“We have a great team in place to assist the students,” McFadden said. “Mike and Bryon actually run their own herds of cattle. This isn’t theoretical to them. This is real. When it rains and the pastures are muddy, they know it. When markets rise or drop, they know it. They’re very engaged, and they’ll convey that to the students.
“The quality of the faculty involved in this is both a reflection of the importance of this to the department and the opportunity for the faculty. The faculty love to teach outstanding students. They love to see how high they can fly.”
Farmers and ranchers have their own team in place, such as veterinarians and nutritionists. The mentors will form that type of team for the students. Smith understands that relationship well and is excited for several aspects of the project, including the opportunity to work closely with students.
“This is a very unique opportunity for our students,” he said. “To be put into real-world situations and make decisions is not something that every student gets an opportunity to do. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m happy to be able to help them move forward and grow.”
McFadden was involved in a similar program while at the University of Vermont. That program was on the dairy side, as the students ran an entire dairy operation.
“It was the most powerful learning experience that I’ve been associated with, on multiple levels,” McFadden said.
The Loewenberg Beef Cattle Management Internship is open to all CAFNR students.
“In my experience, the students develop great pride,” McFadden said. “Oftentimes, the toughest part is the students letting go of their herd at the end. We encourage creativity and this internship will allow our students to be creative.”
Loewenberg, of Clark, Mo., is a Mizzou graduate. He has long supported CAFNR and MU efforts, including donating heifers for auctions at the college’s Ag Unlimited banquets and providing financial aid for several other programs.
“It was time to make the donation,” Loewenberg said. “Cattle take a lot of time and effort. I’m 78 years old and doing a lot of traveling. It was the right thing to do.
“I’ll still be working with my customers, though. I’m still marketing bulls.”
Loewenberg earned his degree in forestry. He has been raising Salers since 1985.
“We have several high quality students, and I’m excited about the opportunity to work with them,” Loewenberg said. “We’ve already had our first work session – weaned a few calves. It was a little traumatic to give up my herd, but this process is making it a little easier. The students are keeping me young.
“Mizzou made me. I benefited so much from attending, and Mizzou really prepared me for life after college. I live and die with the Tigers and these donations are the natural thing to do.”