"I see it as a tremendous opportunity for some of the brightest veterinary students from across the nation. It’s like getting on the dream team for vet school,” says John Groves, DVM, of Livestock Veterinary Service at Eldon, MO.

“I think this is a priceless opportunity for students to leave the structured environment of the classroom and enter the real world of beef production,” says Tom Noffsinger, DVM, a consulting feedyard veterinarian and low-stress cattle handling expert based at Benkelman, NE.

Both are talking about the Beef Production Immersive Knowledge Experience (B-PIKE), a ten-week summer program designed to help veterinary students learn by doing at the feedlot, with added insights to the stocker sector.

“The idea of this program is not to turn them into feedlot consultants—obviously there is no possible way to do that in ten weeks. What we hope to do is give them an understanding of how a feedyard works and the role that the veterinarian plays within that framework,” explains Terry Engelken, DVM, associate professor of Veterinary Diagnostics and Production Animal Medicine at Iowa State University. “Along the way, we try to challenge them to develop their critical thinking skills in the areas of animal handling, pathology, disease transmission, health protocol evaluation and the relationship between nutrition and disease. Then, they can take this experience back to vet school and have a different perspective on the information that is presented in the classroom.”

Dr. Engelken worked with Dee Griffin, DVM, feedlot production management veterinarian at the Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center (GPVEC) at Clay Center, NE, to develop the program which began six years ago. Dr. Engelken adds that Del Miles, DVM, at Veterinary Research and Consulting Services, LLC, based at Greeley, CO, played a key role in getting the program off the ground.

The B-PIKE program is limited to six students per year. Competition is deep and widespread. Last year, for example, there were more than 20 applicants from Washington State University to Cornell University and everywhere in between.

“I’m impressed with how hard these kids are willing to work so that they can make a difference when they enter practice,” Dr. Groves says. “They’re highly motivated.”

Dr. Groves’ practice and stocker clients host B-PIKE students as part of a touring, week-long, in-depth look at the stocker sector—dubbed Grass Cattle 101—that is part of the ten week program.

“I’ve always been a big fan of Dr. Dee Griffin and GPVEC,” Dr. Groves says. He participated in the Beef Cattle Production Management Series there several years ago (see “Growing by Helping Clients Grow” in this issue). “I think what they do is of such high quality. It’s such a good program and they train the best of the best vets out there.”


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For perspective, the stocker tour last year included visits with veterinarians, stocker operators, university folks and allied professionals in Missouri, Arkansas and Mississippi. The year before, students visited stocker operators, feedlots, auction markets, veterinarians and allied professionals in Kansas and Oklahoma.

Dr. Engelken is quick to credit the support of animal health companies for helping B-PIKE provide students with a comprehensive experience. Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica is the primary sponsor today, with added support from Bayer Animal Health. Elanco Animal Health sponsors the Grass Cattle 101 portion. Fort Dodge Animal Health was the sole sponsor when B-PIKE began in 2008.