NMSU branding

New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

News Center




NMSU beef cattle research opportunities have a South African connection

When New Mexico State University professor Clint Loest and graduate students Eben Oosthuysen and Zeno Bester share information about their beef-cattle research, the New Mexico cattlemen they?re speaking with often wonder about their accent.


A woman and two men sitting in front of cattle in a pen.
Common interest in beef-cattle health has brought New Mexico State University professor Clint Loest, center, and graduate students Zeno Bester, left, and Eben Oosthuysen from their homeland of South Africa to do research at NMSU on issues associated with the cattle-feeding industry. Bester and Oosthuysen are working on doctoral degrees. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

?People ask me if I?m from Texas,? said Loest, ruminant nutrition expert in the Animal and Range Science Department. ?I tell them a little further south ? actually, almost to the South Pole.?

Loest grew up on a ranch in South Africa and earned his bachelor?s and master?s degrees at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He arrived at NMSU in 2001 after obtaining his doctorate at Kansas State University.

The livestock nutrition research by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences team of Loest, Eric Scholljegerdes, Mike Hubbert, Shanna Ivey and Sergio Soto-Navarro has given NMSU something of a rock star status in the beef-cattle industry.

?When you work as a team, it makes things so much better and word gets out about the research,? Loest said. ?With our facilities on campus, along with the campus ranch and the livestock research centers in Corona, Clayton and Tucumcari, we are able to cover all spectrums of the cattle industry. We are able to study the nutrition of cows and calves on the ranch, and follow up with the nutrition of calves in the feedlots.?

That attention has brought two more South Africans halfway around the world in pursuit of doctoral degrees.

Oosthuysen was the first to arrive. He has completed his Master of Science degree while at NMSU and is now working on his doctoral degree. Bester joined the doctoral program this year.

?While finishing my Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, my professor said I should contact Dr. Loest for further study,? Oosthuysen said. ?When I saw the facility, I knew I needed to be here.?

During his research at the Clayton Livestock Research Center, Oosthuysen has tested various feedlot receiving protocols on 600 to 700 head of cattle per study.

?Because the cattle-feeding industry in America is so much bigger than at home, I am able to see more cattle on feed in a week than are fed in all of South Africa,? he said. ?There?s very few places in the world that allow the opportunity to do a study on 700 high-stress newly received calves.?

Bester arrived in New Mexico after nine years of commercial experience in the feed industry. She, too, attended the University of Pretoria, where she earned her bachelor?s and master?s degrees in animal nutrition.

?Back home, we all know about Dr. Loest,? Bester said. ?He is known for the work he is doing in America.?

But it was Hubbert, superintendent of the Clayton Livestock Research Center, who brought Bester to NMSU.

?I was looking at either Kansas State or New Mexico State ? then I met Dr. Hubbert and was sold on NMSU,? Bester said. ?I was impressed with his work and his industry connection. He really has his feet on the ground and knows the concerns of the producers.?

While the beef-cattle industry differs between the United States and South Africa, both graduate students say the industries taking care of the animals are the same, because animals are animals. They both are doing research associated with animal nutrition and health ? specifically in the feedlot.

South Africa?s beef industry raises a smaller, leaner animal.

?In South Africa, we raise our cattle differently. We fatten them in a shorter period of time ? 115 to 120 days. So there is a difference in the way we feed our cattle,? Bester said. ?Our consumers prefer leaner meat than Americans, who like their meat to be marbled.?

Both students see their future in the feedlot aspect of the cattle industry. Oosthuysen said a summer internship with one of the leading feedlot nutritionists in the United States reaffirmed his decision to stay in the Texas/Oklahoma Panhandle region as a feedlot nutritionist.

Bester has seen the global side of the industry and wants to work in that arena.

?We can?t produce enough meat just from one country,? she said. ?So we need to look at the whole food production process from a global perspective. I think with the expertise developed in America, we can benefit different economies across the world. I want to consult in various countries to help them develop their beef-cattle industry.?