“There’s a wide variation in the background and production experience of the students, but all of them are intently interested in becoming part of the beef production system,” Dr. Noffsinger says. He is a consulting veterinarian for Nebraska-based Gottsch Feedyards which hosts B-PIKE students each summer at its yards in Juniata and Red Cloud.

“I include them in my daily consultation visits, interacting with them mostly on hospital treatments and protocols and postmortem examinations,” Dr. Noffsinger says. “We include them in any stockmanship and caregiver training and we are training them in low-stress handling as we process and sort cattle and as we walk and exercise hospital cattle.”

Students have the chance to learn how feedlots work from end-to-end.

“The program requires students to work in each part of the feedyard in order to understand the total package,” Dr. Engelken explains. “Students learn how to evaluate incoming calves and the best way to load out finished cattle. They work in the feed mill, ride in feed trucks and learn to read bunks. They process newly arrived calves and work with pen riders to learn how to recognize sick cattle and get them to a hospital. They work with the hospital crew to understand clinical decisions as part of a treatment protocol and the importance of animal health records and Beef Quality Assurance. We do our best to have students necropsy all of the deads under the supervision of either feedyard personnel or the consulting veterinarian.

 “Students also get an opportunity to work with the consulting veterinarian and nutritionist as they visit the yards,” Dr. Engelken explains. “They come to understand that there is a lot more involved in constructing and monitoring a health program than picking the right vaccine and counting the deads. The students get an opportunity to see the daily running of the yard from top to bottom and hopefully gain a better understanding of the role that veterinarians play in making sure the cattle are cared for.”

Dr. Groves points out another opportunity students have through B-PIKE is access to a wide network of influential veterinarians.

B-PIKE’s practical education is supplemented by weekly seminars presented by academic and industry experts on various feedlot topics. 

“These production medicine rounds are designed to enhance student learning and understanding of the feedlot industry,” Dr. Engelken says. “Students in B-PIKE get a daily, firsthand look at the population dynamics that affect animal health, animal welfare, nutritional management and productivity. This repetitive immersion is key to understanding the factors that affect enterprise profitability and the role that the veterinary profession plays in feedlot management. Additionally, Dr. Griffin does a great job of supplementing these sessions by meeting with the students during the week.” 

“We teach them some about acclimation in processing and the fact that how cattle are processed is much more important than how fast they are processed,” Dr. Noffsinger says, offering some specific examples of his interaction with students. “We discuss how to establish the case definition for BRD (bovine respiratory disease), using more than a thermometer, and how that case definition changes recommended treatment and expected response.”

Jim Coffey participated in B-PIKE last year. He’s in veterinary school at Oklahoma State University. He’s one of those who grew up on a farm and has been around livestock all his life. He explains veterinary medicine was a logical choice for him because he wanted to be in a position to help both animals and people.

“B-PIKE enabled me to work in three different feedyards and be around industry leaders and veterinarians while learning more about the beef cattle industry,” Coffey says. “My current plan is to be a mixed animal or large animal practitioner in the Southeast or Midwest. I really enjoy feedlots and would love to consult as well.”