Western Illinois University: Macomb Campus
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"Mountain Music" Is One of Many Experiences for WIU Ag Student Intern at Randy Owen's Ranch
August 31, 2011
MACOMB, IL – Typically the night before a cattle sale, Casey Krieg, a Western Illinois University agriculture major who works with his dad managing a herd of Hereford cows, doesn't expect an evening full of live music performed by one of country music's biggest stars near Lookout Mountain. But for Krieg—who is from near Carthage (IL), the seat of Hancock County set amid the corn and soybean fields of western Illinois—he knows now that such a show is business-as-usual before a cattle sale at Tennessee River Music (TRM), Inc., cattle ranch.
Owned by Randy Owen, the lead singer of the Grammy-award winning and Country Music Hall of Fame-inducted trio Alabama, the TRM ranch is located in Fort Payne, near where Owen grew up, situated in the Appalachia region of Alabama. For Krieg, a self-described "farm kid from a small town in Illinois," who spent his summer on this "big-time cattle ranch," that pre-sale performance by Owen is just one of many unique experiences he had while serving in an internship at Owen's approximately 500-head Hereford and Angus cattle 3,000-acre operation.
"I started my internship in mid-May, so I was able to be involved with TRM's annual Hereford sale, called the 'Dixieland Delight Hereford Sale,' which they hold during Memorial Day weekend," Krieg explained. "The night before the sale, TRM hosts a social, and Randy performs with this solo band, and they provide supper for those attending the sale. At the sale itself, I also got to meet some of the premier cattle breeders in the United States. There were a lot of high-dollar cows there. I learned there are some $30,000 cows out there. This year's Dixieland Delight Hereford Sale averaged $4,700 per head," he said.
According to Krieg, working on Owen's TRM ranch during his 12-week internship this summer provided him with a variety of hands-on cattle-production experiences he'll be able to apply to his current and future work in the cattle industry. He noted that what he learned this summer, too, will be of use during his senior year at WIU studying animal science and agriculture business.
"Because of where they are located, up there in Lookout Mountain in the Appalachian Mountain range, they don't have the fertile black soil we have here in the Midwest. So I learned a lot about different kinds of grasses and forages they feed their cows and about different kinds of cattle nutrition practices," he said. "I also got to experience what it is like to work with Angus cattle. I've always grown up in the Hereford business, so, before my internship this summer, I never really got to experience working with other breeds of cattle," Krieg added.
Though well known throughout much of the U.S. (and probably the world) as the head of the country music super-group Alabama, Randy Owen, said Krieg, has a down-to-earth nature and gives a lot back to his hometown region of Alabama, as well as to his and Alabama's fans.
"I got to spend some time with them, Randy, his wife Kelly and his daughter Randa. Even though Randy is a famous musician, and the TRM ranch is a well-known operation in the cattle industry, they treat you just like good, down-home people. They really are the epitome of southern hospitality," he noted.
Krieg said that while he's happy to be back home and to have gotten the start of his senior year of college underway, he is grateful for the time he spent working at TRM this summer. He added that he is particularly appreciative of the guidance and support offered this summer by Dave Roberts, an old friend of his father's who was enrolled in Western Illinois University's agriculture program and was a member of the program's livestock judging team in the early 1970s. Roberts, said Krieg, works at Owen's TRM ranch, as well as with Owen's fellow Alabama band member, Teddy Gentry, at Gentry's ranch Bent Tree Farms, also in Fort Payne.
"At Bent Tree, Dave works with Teddy developing the South Poll cattle breed, a new breed Teddy has developed," Krieg noted. "Getting to work at TRM, as well as with Dave, and all the people I met at TRM, was a great way to spend the summer. Especially during the sale and some of the events at TRM, like the Alabama fan-appreciation weekend in June they held at the ranch, well, it was pretty exciting for an ol' po-dunk farm boy who likes to work with cows," Krieg added with a laugh.
For more information about WIU's School of Agriculture and its programs and opportunities for students studying ag, visit www.wiu.edu/ag. Learn more about Randy Owen's Tennessee Music River, Inc., ranch at www.tennesseerivermusic.com and more about Gentry's Bent Tree Farms, "Home of the South Poll Cattle Breed," at www.benttreefarms.org.