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Samantha Cunningham, assistant professor of animal science at Western, was one of 62 other young cattlemen and cattlewomen selected to participate in the 35th National Cattlemen's Beef Association Young Cattlemen's Conference in June.
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Ag Faculty Member Selected as Illinois Delegate for Young Cattlemen's Conference

July 2, 2014

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MACOMB, IL — A Western Illinois University School of Agriculture faculty member was recently selected as the Illinois delegate to attend the 35th National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Young Cattlemen's Conference (YCC). Samantha Cunningham, assistant professor of animal science at Western, was one of 62 other young cattlemen and cattlewomen to be selected to participate in the annual conference in June. The Illinois Beef Association sponsored her attendance.

According to the NCBA, the YCC program is a comprehensive, nationwide tour of beef industry sectors created to enhance leadership skills in beef industry professionals. Cunningham said, as the Illinois delegate, she and the others selected from around the U.S. spent 10 days traveling and learning about the beef industry. She and one other (of the 62 individuals selected to attend) were the only faculty members in higher education chosen to take part.

"YCC is an excellent opportunity to network with other young industry professionals while learning about the opportunities and challenges that face beef producers daily," Cunningham noted. "We started out in Denver, traveled to Chicago and we ended up in Washington, D.C., for the conference. It was really an amazing experience to get to know the 62 others, most of whom were producers or working the in the beef industry in some capacity. Not only can I use most everything I learned for the WIU beef herd and for my family's operation, but I can also use it in some of my classes as I help to educate and inspire the future of agriculture," she added.

"YCC is a prestigious and competitive program designed to foster the future leadership of our industry," noted Forrest Roberts, NCBA chief executive officer. "The participants selected to attend YCC were chosen because of their exceptional contributions to the beef industry and their potential to be a strong voice in our future development. I look forward to seeing Sam take an increased leadership role within NCBA and the beef industry."

The NCBA website states the YCC tour "has proven to be an effective vehicle in identifying and developing potential leaders. Over 1,000 cattlemen and women have graduated from the YCC program since its inception in 1980."

In addition to the exposure to the various aspects of the beef industry, the conference provided a day for the selected individuals to meet with their individual states' legislators.

"The day before that, we were briefed about many issues facing the agriculture industry. Then, being able to meet with the legislators, to tell them our individual stories and how issues impact our home states… This was huge. I personally have never done anything like that before, and the opportunity provided amazing perspective," she said. "I'll be looking for more ways to be involved in the Illinois Beef Association, as well as ways to encourage my students to learn about and get involved with industry issues. Attending the YCC was an experience of a lifetime—as once you have done it, you can't do it again."

As of the Spring 2014 semester, Cunningham has completed her second year as a faculty member in the School of Agriculture, where she also oversees WIU's beef cattle herd and coordinates the WIU Performance Bull Test. Prior to teaching at Western, Cunningham managed herd records and registrations on the R.A. Brown Ranch, in Throckmorton, TX.

Cunningham grew up fourth-generation on her family's farm/ranch in western Nebraska, which focuses not only on purebred cattle production, but continues to maintain a commercial beef herd. She attended Clarendon College and Texas Tech University, where she was on the livestock judging team and earned a bachelor's degree in animal science. She earned her master's degree in animal breeding and her doctorate in animal science from Texas A&M University.

For more information, contact Cunningham at

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