COLLEGE STATION — The youth track for the 2019 Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course, held recently in College Station, gave real-world experience, hours of education and a beef quality assurance certification to 30 youth interested in expanding their beef cattle knowledge.
“One goal for our youth track is to allow students to have a hands-on experience with the beef industry,” said Victoria Heller, youth track co-facilitator and Texas Beef Council industry outreach manager, Austin. “This allows them to discover aspects of our industry they may not be familiar with and learn about the role they play in the bigger picture of producing a safe and high-quality product.”
Students came from all over the state with varying backgrounds and knowledge — from being a novice with cattle all the way to champion showman — and everything in between.
Youth track started with introductions and team-building exercises to get to know each other and share why they were interested in the beef industry. Some youth said they enjoyed beef products or FFA and 4-H show competitions, while others worked family ranches.
With a welcome from Jason Cleere, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service beef cattle specialist, College Station, and conference coordinator, all were reminded opportunities present in the industry generally begin with relationships.
“You never know when the next person comes along, what kind of opportunities that relationship may present in the future,” Cleere said. “It is always good to network. You‘ve heard of the Aggie network, and the beef industry network offers the same thing.”
The youth then made their way to the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine with a brief discussion on preparing for veterinary school from Dr. Easterwood, clinical assistant professor of equine community practice. They were then divided into groups for some hands-on experiences and up-close animal viewing.
Easterwood and her team of vet students prepared three participation stations for the youth. The first stop was a steer with a cannulated rumen, followed by evaluation of dilated eyes in horses and finally reviews of recent dental work.
Following the vet school, the group bussed to the Texas A&M Beef Center to receive their Beef Quality Assurance certifications. The program, facilitated by Thomas Hairgrove, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension specialist; Joe Paschal, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension livestock specialist; and Joe Mask, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension specialist, taught students how to implement best management practices to produce quality, marketable beef products.
“Beef Quality Assurance is a partnership program with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and Texas Beef Council,” Heller said. “Just as we encourage ranchers, we encourage these students to continue their education and learn about production practices that produce the safest and highest quality beef.”
Each student was able to participate in the discussion and experience first-hand working cattle in the hydraulic chute. There was also a discussion on implants, vaccinations and ear tagging.
On day two of the course, the youth went to Rosenthal Meat Lab where they learned how to grade meat and practice their new skill on four beef carcasses with Dr. Dan Hale, Ph.D., associate director for Agriculture and Natural Resources programs.
Finally, each student learned how to prepare and cook beef properly by grilling their own steak.
“It was the first time for all of us judging the carcasses, so that was my favorite part. I also liked grilling and learning about steaks and what healthy sides you can make to go with it,” said Caden Hempel, 13, of Victoria County, who participated along with his two older sisters.
After grilling out, the students ventured back for a Path to the Plate discussion, facilitated by Hale and Julie Gardener, AgriLife Extension specialist – healthy lifestyles, and for spokesperson training provided by the Texas Beef Council.
“The Texas Beef Council hosts spokesperson trainings across Texas to equip our beef advocates to talk about what they do on their ranch with people in their community,” Heller said. “Students have such diverse communities that they engage with each day and starting conversations is the first step in becoming a great advocate for beef.”
The dates for the 2020 Beef Cattle Short Course and Youth Track will be Aug. 3-5, 2020.