National Agriculture Day – What does it mean to you?

My role in Agriculture has changed a bit since this time last year. In 2011 I was staring down the nose of some rank Brangus momma cows as I tagged their newborn calves. Day in and out I found myself in the middle of a pasture, working hands-on, raising beef for dinner tables across the globe. Today I play a different role in producing food. I’m still involved in beef cattle production. However, today I am on the research and education side of things.

So how does a college research assistant impact cattle production. Well, mostly I’m sitting at a desk, like this morning at 2 A.M. studying for an exam. But I also get to work with some of the best researchers in the country looking for ways to provide better resources and understanding for cattle producers around the country.

For example, take my work this past weekend. I took a trip to West Tennessee to pregnancy check cattle. Now, I joke around saying that I am “Up To My Armpits” in the back-end of a cow, but really I’m learning (hands-in, if you will) about the establishment and early development of pregnancy. Growing up, we allowed the bulls to do all of the breeding work in the herd and called the veterinarian in to determine that all of the cows were pregnant 6 months after breeding. Today, with the resources of beef cattle specialists and mentors, I’m learning to use some of the best modern resources in efficient breeding strategies. I am learning the use of Artificial Insemination and how to use an Ultrasound – much like the one in your Gynecologist’s office – to determine cow pregnancy as early as 30 days after breeding. It’s one thing to reach in and feel a developing embryo. It’s another to see it on a screen. I can sit all day in a classroom, with my nose stuck in a book, and still not learn what I can with actual hands-on experience. When I finish my degree program – whenever that distant day may arrive – I’ll be able to take these experiences, combined with an understanding of cellular concepts from the classroom, and apply them to help cattle producers in my own way.

Cattle producers are gaining from the work of my mentors (and myself, somewhat) as we visit all corners of Tennessee sharing our discoveries. Tennessee has a great program to educate producers on the fundamentals, latest technologies and discoveries, in raising cattle. Classes held in almost every county in the state, share with producers topics of Nutrition, Reproduction, Handling, Beef Quality Assurance, Marketing, and even Genetics. I greatly enjoy attending these meetings, having conversations with ranchers, and sharing my knowledge of the topics. There’s no better table for discussion than a Cattlemen’s meeting for this guy.

My position in agriculture may have temporarily changed, but I hope that new doors of opportunity will open for me in the future. Hopefully I can show others what I’m learning in a college setting and how to apply it to their own skills. Maybe I can open up new windows of interest for those wanting to learn more about the science of their food origins.

Either way I am proud to be a part of Agriculture. Even though I may not be now where I want to end up, I know I can still make a difference.

Why are YOU Agriculture Proud? Share your thoughts with everyone on this National Agriculture Day, and explain how you have a role in agriculture. From the pasture to plate, we all play a part.

Check out more of my month-long series featuring the diversity of Agriculture. I’m asking farmers, ranchers, and consumers from across the country why they are proud to be a part of Agriculture. Why are YOU Agriculture Proud?