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U.S. Beef Academy offers young producers a unique, advanced learning experience

VALLES CALDERA NATIONAL PRESERVE, N.M. - The second annual U.S. Beef Academy is focused on providing the next generation of beef producers a unique, applied beef cattle management experience on the historic Baca Ranch location, now a national preserve, in the high country of northern New Mexico.

Line of people walking toward cattle
Ron Gill, Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist and U.S. Beef Academy instructor, works with students to prepare a group of heifers for low-stress cattle handling techniques at the 2012 U.S. Beef Academy held at the Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico. (NMSU Photo)

The USBA, hosted at the Valles Caldera National Preserve, is the second tier of the New Mexico Youth Ranch Management Program. New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service, Zoetis animal health products, New Mexico Beef Council and other members of the beef cattle industry sponsor the youth ranch management program.

The beef academy, scheduled for July 13-18, is tailored as an advanced, applied educational experience for youth between the ages of 16-19 with a sincere desire to be the next generation of beef industry producers and leaders.

NMYRM was developed in 2011 to promote applied learning opportunities for youth from family ranches. The NMYRM program, now in its third year, initially started with a single, week-long ranch camp experience in June for youth from New Mexico. The ranch camp, now open to youth from across the United States, covers multiple aspects of ranch management, including beef production, range management, wildlife management, marketing and economics.

"During the ranch camp, we have one day to cover all aspects of producing safe and quality beef, which is a sizable task in a hands-on format," said Manny Encinias, NMSU Extension beef cattle specialist and member of the ranch camp organizing committee.

By design, the curriculum at the academy is to build off the foundation developed at the ranch camp experience.

"Instead of one or two hours per topic, we spend an entire day," Encinias said.

The hands-on, USBA curriculum is developed by beef industry experts and professionals from across the United States. Faculty from Cooperative Extension Service affiliates at NMSU, Texas A&M University, University of Wisconsin-River Falls, South Dakota State University and Colorado State University, as well as allied industry specialists and veterinarians, design each day to cover the spectrum of producing safe and quality beef.

Daily highlights include:

? Day 1: learning the process of producing high quality beef from pasture to plate by fabricating a beef carcass on-site, predicting quality and yield grades visually and with real-time ultrasound, and evaluating the impacts of cooking methods and beef quality on consumer preferences.

? Day 2: promoting healthy cattle management through chute-side beef quality assurance practices, discussion on basic immunology and vaccinology, as well as effective stockmanship methods to improve gathering, chute work and hauling of beef cattle.

? Day 3: improving reproductive efficiency and genetic quality of the cowherd by understanding reproductive function of the cow and bull to incorporate reproductive technologies, such as estrus synchronization, artificial insemination, embryo transfer and using sexed semen.

? Day 4: understanding the role of nutritional management in each segment of the beef industry as it relates to growth and development of bulls and heifers, managing the mature cowherd, and growing and finishing cattle in the feedlot.

? Day 5: exploring consumer insights, trends and perspectives of the beef industry and beef products to develop successful marketing strategies for various classes of cattle.

"It's a challenging, yet fun learning opportunity for these young people," Encinias said. "In perspective, each hour of instruction at the academy is equivalent to one semester of college."

Youth spend 12 to 16 hours per day immersed in a learn-by-doing format, which also includes daily Top Hand quiz bowl competitions. At the end of the week the daily Top Hands compete for the overall Top Hand and the custom-made USBA spurs.

Participating youth will leave this unique experience with an expanded toolbox of new concepts and ideas, advanced technologies and applied skills that are currently being used throughout the beef industry to improve efficiency and profitability.

The goals for youth who attend the academy are two-fold: 1) introduce them to subject matter they can take back to their family ranch, and 2) expose and provide direction on future educational and career opportunities across various sectors of the beef industry.

"I strongly recommend attending the USBA to any youth who has an interest in the cattle industry," said Shea Esser, 2012 academy attendee from Wisconsin. "I can honestly say there was not an hour that passed that I didn't not learn something. It afforded me the opportunity to broaden my knowledge and introduced me to industry professionals who I hope to be working with when I graduate from college. If you are looking for an in-depth, fast-paced, hands-on beef production seminar, USBA is the place to go."

Application and enrollment to the USBA is open to youth from across the United States. Online application and more information can be found at http://nmbeef.nmsu.edu. Applications for enrollment are due by June 1. The top 35 applications, as determined by the organizing committee, will be invited to this year's academy.