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WIU Empowers Students with Hands-On Beef Production Experience

May 8, 2024

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MACOMB, IL - -Western Illinois University is revolutionizing agricultural education through a beef production class, providing students with hands-on learning experiences. At WIU, students take the reins in every aspect of beef production management, from the preparation of the WIU performance-tested bull sale to cow herd management on campus.

In this dynamic course, students have primary responsibility for the preparation and execution of the WIU performance-tested bull sale. This includes conducting health checks on bulls, preparing bulls for sale by clipping and torching, assisting with picturing and video, proofreading sale catalogs and managing all sale day events such as buyer registration and bull load out.

Students actively participate in the calving crew, performing checks on cows and heifers throughout the calving season, even during nighttime hours when staff availability is limited. This involvement allows students to gain firsthand experience in all facets of beef production at WIU.
As part of the curriculum, students go on a four-day trip to the Dakotas and Iowa, where they engage in networking opportunities with prominent figures in the beef industry. This year, 11 students participated in the experience.
During the trip, students visit establishments such as Schaff Angus Valley, where they learn strategies from industry leaders in Angus seed stock production. They also explore Keller Broken Heart Ranch, gaining insights into cutting-edge DNA technology and mating strategies for optimal breeding outcomes.

Additional highlights of the trip include a visit to Chad Berger Bucking Bulls, home to legendary bulls such as "Little Yellow Jacket" and Ken Odde's commercial cow-calf operation, where innovative techniques like sexed bull semen and twinning are applied.

The itinerary includes stops at Reimann Ranch, CK Cattle, Fawcett's Elm Creek Ranch and RJ Cattle, each offering unique perspectives on raising club calves, purebred seedstock, and/or show cattle.

The trip also takes students to bull studs such as 605 Sires and Custom Genetic Solutions, showcasing state-of-the-art facilities and attracting clientele from all facets of the beef industry.
A recent addition to the experience is Denny Topf of Western Iowa, showing in agriculture with expansive crop acreage, ranching operations and strategic partnerships.

Each encounter provides job opportunities and networking connections for WIU students, distinguishing the university as a leader in agricultural education. WIU's commitment to providing high-level experiences ensures industry-ready professionals who will shape the future of agriculture.

For more information on WIU's School of Agriculture, visit

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Office of University Communications & Marketing