Iowa State Class Tours Northwest Iowa Beef Industry



college students in a cattle barnORANGE CITY, Iowa -- Twenty students from Iowa State University’s Beef Cattle Systems Management class received real life information and advice during a recent tour of three northwest Iowa beef industries. Class instructor and Iowa Beef Center director Dan Loy said this kind of field trip provides a unique opportunity for students.

“Animal Science 426 focuses on feedlot management," Loy said, "and an important part of the curriculum is these tours where students visit directly with producers and agribusiness professionals and see the industry in action."

The class began their tour with a stop at Tyson Foods in Dakota City, Neb., to view the harvest line and question the tour guides. Tyson is the world’s largest beef processor, and the company's daily routine involves 10 critical steps to ensure consumers know the beef they eat is safe and high quality.  

In a follow-up questionnaire one student said, “I had never seen the harvest process at a packing plant before. It was cool to see how fast and efficient it was, even with all of the food safety measures that were used.”

The next stop was at the Rick Hansen feedlot near Hinton. While leading the group through the open feedyard, Hansen explained how he buys cattle, tracks animal health and cares for his animals on a daily basis.  

“One of the marketing techniques that works best for me is to buy and sell cattle weekly,” Hansen said. “I’ve found this helps me reduce price volatility.”

In the afternoon, the students visited with Brett Friedrichsen, feedlot producer at Holstein. Friedrichsen led the class on a tour of his two monoslope barns and showed them a new concrete open feedlot he'd recently constructed.

“Normally you would build these barns oriented east to west," he told the group, "but we oriented one north to south in order to use the existing concrete and to help reduce the construction cost."

Student response to the tour was positive: “We learned that just because a producer spends a lot of money on facilities or high quality cattle, it doesn’t guarantee the feedlot will be successful. It’s all about management.”