“We value our time with these students because we get to share with them this part of the business, what we do, how hard we work and what they need to be able to do in this sector,” says Jack Lawless, feedyard operations manager at Gottsch feedlots in Juniata and Red Cloud. “It gives us a chance to have a little influence on a set of kids who will hopefully be influential in our industry.”

Lawless also believes the feedlots are made better by hosting the B-PIKE students.

“It keeps all of us in the yard honest about how and what we’re doing. These kids are very interested. They tear apart everything we say. They don’t necessarily think we know what we’re telling them. They’re willing to challenge things, and that’s good for everybody. It makes us better leaders,” Lawless explains. “It helps our yards because they’re here asking questions about why we do things a certain way. Sometimes, we don’t ask ourselves that. There has to be a reason why you do something a certain way or do something at all.”

“It also gives my caregivers at the feedlot a chance to teach the students what they’ve learned,” Dr. Noffsinger adds. “As relationships form, in turn, the students have a chance to share with the caregivers things they know.”

“It’s a picker-upper for every crew the students work with,” Lawless says. “Everyone is so proud of the job they do, and these students look at everything microscopically. That gives everyone a chance to look more closely at themselves and what they’re doing so there are no weak spots.”

“We met a lot of great people who take pride in their work,” Coffey says. “We saw a lot of good cattle, great facilities and great people. We were able to ride with the consulting veterinarians and nutritionists, and spend quite a bit of time with Dr. Engelken and Dr. Griffin. Everyone took great care of us and Dr. Engelken and Dr. Griffin made sure that it was an excellent experience.”

Aspects of the B-PIKE education can be multiplied when the students return home, too.

“We get young university people out on operations that have a huge emphasis on beef quality assurance, animal well-being and proper veterinary care,” Dr. Noffsinger says. What they see are things they can take back to share with classmates in and out of veterinary school.

Research Projects Add Depth

The latest evolution in B-PIKE is the addition of summer research projects.

“In-house” research projects are becoming more common as large production units (cow-calf, stocker-backgrounder, feedlot) search for the optimal use of different input combinations,” Dr. Engelken explains. “Research skills have also been required for industry technical service veterinarians as a means of product evaluation and usage for many years. Skills such as experimental design, data capture, and statistical interpretation are becoming more important than ever before, even in practice situations.”

For an idea of the types of research projects, think along the lines of such things as: determining the correlation of antemortem diagnosis with postmortem necropsy lesions; investigating the incidence, risk factors and necropsy lesions associated with AIP (acute interstitial pneumonia) in long-fed cattle; and determining the utility of deep nasal swabs for diagnostics.

The notion is that students will conduct two or three research projects concurrently and then present their research findings by participating in the student research competition at the annual convention of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners. Along the way, the participating feedlots have the opportunity to uncover information that’s useful to them.

The next program change under consideration is adding a cow-calf component to the summer-long immersion experience.