West Texas A&M University provides hands-on curricula in feedyard management.

When a university is located in the heart of cattle feeding country, it's likely to have a foundation in the beef industry. West Texas A&M University in Canyon has taken its base of animal science courses and extended them into undergraduate and graduate options for those wishing to focus on feedyard management.

Ted Montgomery, animal science professor and director of the Beef Carcass Research Center, says the program has experienced a few budget fluctuations, but it's now starting to take off at full speed.

"In the '70s, an experimental feedyard was built to establish emphasis in the feedyard area," Montgomery says. "In the mid-'80s our program was reduced, but we're building it back. A year ago, we had five graduate students in the program, 15 this year."

Veterinarian Louis Perino and Dave Parker, an environmental engineer, coordinate the program with Montgomery.

Direct Industry Emphasis "We don't actually state this program is a curriculum for feedyard management," Montgomery says. "Students are worked into the animal science system and then we work to get them internships in feedyards."

Montgomery says courses within the program reflect directly on the current state of cattle feeding practices. Courses include: ruminant nutrition, feeds and feeding, immunology, meat science, meat and livestock evaluation, as well as some ag business courses.

"When students state their interest in feedyard management, we work with them early on and help them get a strong undergraduate degree," Montgomery says. "Within the last couple years, we've had students who have successfully completed internships and one getting an M.S. in nutrition with an emphasis in feedyard management."

Students in the program must have a 2.0 grade point average (GPA) for undergraduate studies and a 3.0 GPA for graduate students. Montgomery says they prefer undergrads to leave the program with at least a 3.0 GPA and graduate students with a 3.5 GPA.

Fits Student Needs Tony Bryant, a student from Hartley, TX, recently completed an internship at an area feedyard. He says it solidified his career plans.

"I rotated every two or three weeks with each department to get experience in all aspects of the yard," Bryant says. "I definitely liked the feed department, shipping/receiving and the office. Examining the numbers and inputting the processing information was really interesting. I hope to manage a feedyard at some point and the feedyard manager encouraged me to go to graduate school, which I'm doing now."

The feedyard business is unique in that you can learn it, Montgomery says. "A student who really wants to work can learn the business from the ground up. It's one of the few areas of agriculture a student can get into without inheriting something. However, the strong work ethic is essential.

"We've placed a lot of people with feedyard companies," Montgomery says. "I think we have a former student with about every major feeder in this area. Based on recent internships, the feedback from managers has been overwhelmingly positive."