Nick thoroughly enjoyed his journey in the USA over the last five months. It's great to have him back in Aus, and below you can read his in-depth recount of his travels. It's a fantastic read about Kansas State University, meat science gurus, numerous conferences and all things beef!
Nick Boshammer, from Chinchilla QLD, was the 2014 recipient of the Semex Kansas State University Scholarship, and spent five months in America over 2015/2016.
I have been in America just over three weeks now. I have managed to spend two of those at class and the past week has been thanksgiving week so all the students were away on holidays.
The classes have been great. I have been involved in animal production, feeding and nutrition, sales and marketing and meat science classes.
I have been astounded at the access to information here. It is also clear that the research and development programs in the US have been well established for many years now. Most notable is the depth and precision that goes into the data because of the strong, continuing history. It has been great to read facts and data that have real values, so I can appreciate the work that goes into much of this.
I have also had the opportunity to spend some time in a semen collecting laboratory collecting and assessing samples for storage. This was a great opportunity to work with the technicians and learn the current understandings and their points of view requiring new research.
It’s a debate that in my opinion is difficult to obtain data on and is a hotly talked about topic on mortality, morphology, dosage amount and where the research is going? It is my understanding that there is more research going into this.
An example of the confusion around the topic was a bull in the facility that they had been trying to collect straw quality samples from for some time, but had not been able to get samples scoring more that 20% mortality. However, this bull had continuously been used with cows and was getting great pregnancy results. I’m no scientist and I won’t pretend to be but in my opinion this is a great example of the great opportunities that are available to me through my scholarship and will allow me to gain further knowledge on such an important subject.
I have also been fortunate enough to be invited to attend one of K-State’s football games with some of the retired faculty. I was amongst the old greats when it comes to experience in the research and development programs with the USDA and many of the like.
The game was a win to K-State in the final 7 seconds of the game. Coming back from a near impossible position only 20 minutes before hand when many of the spectators left the stadium (which also might have been attributed to the near Atlantic ice temperatures).
I was also very appreciative to be invited to a thanksgiving dinner last Thursday by one of the Professors at the University. It is a strong tradition in the US and they are just as passionate about it as any nation is with traditions and its great to see it continue to bring families across the nation together.
Over the next few weeks of my trip I am hoping to get out to the American Angus office, which is not far from the University. I am very interested to see what they do and gain more understanding of their DNA processes and developing programs.
I have to say a big thank you to Angus Australia and Semex Pty Ltd for enabling me to undertake this trip to America and study at Kansas State University. I have had a fantastic time so far and am looking forward to what is yet to come!
Following on from Thanks-Giving I had the opportunity to travel to the American Angus headquarters in St Joseph, Missouri. This proved very insightful as I was able to commute with k-state ‘faculty legend’ Dr. Larry Corah on my way there and with current president of Angus Genetics Dr. Dan Moser on my back. Both very interesting times talking beef, beef and little bit of football.
Whilst at the Angus HQ I was shown an office tour looking into the Angus story in the US, meet with staff and looked into developing programs. Having spent a great deal of time with Dr Moser both at the office and in transit i was shown a great deal into DNA systems and developing programs. In my opinion there are some very interesting times ahead in terms of using DNA along with existing systems.
Following the Angus HQ trip it was time to narrow in on some further studies at the university before another trip with Embryo Transfer Veterinarian Dr Kirk Grey of cross country genetics. This was a week spend traversing southern and western Kansas to Gordan Stucky’s (outgoing American Angus president) Circle S Ranch then onto Gardiner Angus Ranch. Both very interesting operations allowing a good insight into their programs. Not only was the experience at each operation valued in great lengths but extensive time spend with Dr Kirk Grey was priceless. He is well schooled vet, with a exceptional experience into Embryo transfer (around 12500 E.T. P.a.).
As it is now winding down to Christmas I followed my vet trip with some further studies at the university and plan to travel onwards over the Christmas break.
Following the closing down of the university over the Christmas/new year break I took the opportunity to get out and travel.
First stop Pratt Feeders, southern Kansas. Here I spent 10 days, with a number of days in the different sectors that make up the 40,000 head feedlot. I was able to get an insight into shipping in and out procedures, processing, pen riding, veterinary procedures, feeding and rations, bunk rearing, cattle sourcing and buying, futures and risk management. Pratt feeders ran different to common feed yard systems in the US in that they would typically own only 30% of the stock on feed. Offering different types of arrangements from custom feeding to partnerships. Angus cattle seem to excel in feed conversion with some groups converting 5:2.
Next up, Certified Angus Beef youth leadership program in Wooster, Ohio. This was a great program where I got introductions to the American Angus youth directors. All great people from different parts of the country with interesting operations and backgrounds. The program gave insight into the CAB brand and organisation. Spanning from meat science, value added products, brand verification and auditing. All in all it was simply too quick for the amount of value in the program which I expect is a good thing.
I had some time to meet with the Ohio state university animal science research professor for a short tour on their facilities and research programs before my bus down to Columbus, Ohio for a meet with Brian House of Select Sires. A day spent looking at current sires in their stud and touring their facility was a great experience in the worlds largest beef and diary stud.
Following on I got up to Chicago for a meet with former Australian resident Andrew Brazier of McDonald’s global supply chain. It was here that I got an insight into global beef supply chains and macro effects on the industry. A company serving almost 70 million customers each day buying over 100,000mt of Australian beef surely is a player to work alongside in serving our world food supplies. Andrew also sits on the GRSB (Global Roundtable of Sustainable Beef) in which we conversed quite a deal on and could talk for many days about. All very interesting subjects with a great man in the conductors seat.
Following on I got to the Chicago board of trade for a meet with CIH (commodity and ingredient hedging) for a trading pit tour and also there HQ. The HQ proved quite an eye opener into live risk management options trades as well as futures trading. It was particularly interesting during this time when the market was extremely active moving in each direction rapidly in short bursts.
My remaining few days consisted of touring Chicago’s meat culture and the historic stock yards and processing facilities.
After a week in Chicago I was off to the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado. A spectacular event showcasing what’s regarded as the best show cattle the US has to offer. This proved to be a great opportunity to meet other commercial and seedstock producers in the country, and gain contacts for further referencing. One of the highlights was the Angus Night on the Mountain hosted by Spruce Mountain Ranch. One of the true spectaculars in terms of atmosphere on facilities. A total of 11 heifers were auctioned off as well as holiday trips and tours for fundraising to benefit the Angus foundation.
When the snow falls it’s time to get to the slopes! I continued onward to Aspen in the Rocky Mountains Colorado for a weekend of snow skiing.
I was fortunate enough to get a spot back at CAB for almost a week with their MBA (Masters of Brand a Advantages) program. Meat science was the topic of the week and it was just that. Everything from grading to fabricating to meat analysis and testing. Everyday at CAB proves to be very educational and rewarding with an outstanding team fuelling the engine room to get the brand to where it is today. CAB has almost a billion pounds go under its brand with demands trending upwards each year. A tremendous effort to get to where it is today from humble beginnings in 1978.
At the closure of the week at CAB I took the opportunity to grab a few days travel in California before the highly anticipated NCBA (National Cattlemens Beef Association) conference in San Diego. Nice Californian weather is just what the doctor ordered for this Queenslander leading up to Australia Day. A couple of days getting around to seedstock producers Tehama Angus Ranch, Five Star Land and Livestock and the extraordinary Gallo Wine owned Vintage Angus Ranch. All great people with different ideas, sharing there valuable time to give great insights into their operation.
Next stop Los Angeles for a tour at a coldstore to see imported meat coming in for USDA inspection, storage and distribution. A level with huge responsibilities for zero error. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes in insuring a smooth transaction on a perishable item and from what I saw only experience can do so successfully.
NCBA begins tomorrow for week of beef, beef and more beef. Then back to k-state to continue studies.
The past few weeks have proven to be exceptional in any regard and I must thank those for sparing their time and experiences along the way to make it what it what has been truly a memorable time with learning curves running at full gallop.
My final week in California was spent in San Diego at the NCBA (National Cattleman’s Beef Association) Convention. This not only proved a great opportunity to meet people from all walks of life in America, but also to reconnect with past introductions. This was particularly highlighted on my first night there when I was on my way back to the motel and Jerry Bohn, manager at Pratt Feeders came up and asked if I would like to join him and his wife for dinner. Out of courtesy my first response was to oblige his invitation and decline his offer. Then I thought what a great opportunity to get some one on one time with one of the leading feedlot managers in the U.S. with close to 30 years feedlot experience and a long list of involvement with beef industry boards. It proved to be a very worth while dining experience.
The remaining week consisted of a series of talks presented by key note speakers from PhD scientists, to world reckoned chefs, to military SWAT veterans and everything in-between. The convention finished up with Martina McBride performing in a packed out stadium.
It was now time to get back to the books at K-State, partaking in classes involving reproduction, meat science and beef industries which involved touring supermarkets, restaurants and seedstock operations.
During a free morning I took the opportunity to visit an Embryo Transfer clinic owned and operated by Dr Kirk Grey. I had previously been on trip during the later part of last year with Dr Grey and was yet to see his base clinic. This proved an insightful morning learning the program which runs year round at the clinic and hearing some of the experiences they have learned along the way to obtain ultimate performance for their service.
After a few weeks in Manhattan I had my eyes set on the Schaff Angus Valley Bull Sale in North Dakota. I managed to arrange trips along the way to Rishel Angus, Nebraska, Jorgensens Angus, South Dakota and Schiefelbein Farms, Minnesota, on my return to clock up just under 3000km in three nights and three days. A very worth while trip from my experience to see leading yet different objective operations.
Upon my return to Kansas it was almost a quick stop and go for a week trip to southern and western Kansas with world renowned meat scientist Dr Melvin Hunt for my final week in the U.S. We had trips planned to visit small, medium and large processing plants as well as some innovative western Kansas farming, diary, livestock and ethanol plants. Dr Hunt was a western Kansas original and was able to give an in depth locals tour of the region. Through all to visits the most benefit came from the time spent in transit with a phenomenally intelligent professor with a life time of meat science experience. What was also impressive was a visit to the National Beef processing plant in Dodge city, a first hand look into processing of 6000 head per day and an average of 420 per hour producing approximately 1.8 million kgs of ground beef a week! This plant was the largest processor of Certified Angus Beef.
The realization had now set in that my time in the U.S. had gone all too quick and it was tough to leave a dream run since my departure from the homeland.
All in all I can summarise the trip as a buffet of learning experiences and contribute all of these to the ever successful list of networks that glues K-State together, almost all of my connections came from the outstanding facility on the western edge of the Kansas flint hills. This is a true reflection of the extraordinary past and current faculty at K-State by not only my opinion but by others outside as well.
In particular I would like to make mention to Dr Larry Corah, Dr Dave Nichols and Richard Raines (Australia) for their introductions and mentoring which I could not put words together to show my appreciation towards.
Most importantly it could not have been possible without the sponsorship by Semex and facilitation by Angus Australia and their link to K-State.