BOZEMAN — A continuously growing student program in Montana State University’s College of Agriculture is seeking donations of steers, feed or financial support for the 2019-20 academic year.
The Steer-A-Year program allows students to learn about every element of cattle management through hands-on involvement. Students feed and raise the cattle through the winter and spring, collecting data about daily intakes, feed efficiency and weight gain, while also learning about beef marketing and cattle health. The steers are used in courses like Beef Production, Meat Science and Livestock Evaluation.
Donated steers are raised at the Bozeman Agriculture Research and Teaching Farm. Steer-A-Year program manager Hannah DelCurto-Wyffels said that to ensure success in their new setting, calves should be weaned, castrated and dehorned before they are donated and should weigh 500-800 pounds. The ideal pickup period for calves is Oct. 28 to Nov. 15.
Once they reach maturity and are ready for harvest, the steers are sold to MSU Culinary Services, where the meat is served in both the Miller and Rendezvous dining halls. The partnership is part of the focus on local food that earned MSU’s dining program a number of national awards earlier this year.
DelCurto-Wyffels, also an instructor in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences and the coordinator for MSU’s livestock judging team, said raising cattle is new for some students and the hands-on approach highlighted by Steer-A-Year is the primary reason students sign up for the program.
“The benefit is twofold for students,” DelCurto-Wyffels said. “One is the hands-on opportunity that it provides. They have the ability to work with the steers on a day-to-day basis, and some of them have never been around cattle. The second benefit is that financial aspect, which goes back to support students in the College of Ag.”
The money brought in by the steers primarily funds travel for student teams such as the livestock judging team, which competes in national events as far away as Texas. The funds also help facilitate trips to industry meetings such as the Montana Farm Bureau Convention and Montana Stockgrowers Association meetings, where students have a chance to network and communicate with professionals in the field.
The 2018-19 Steer-A-Year program produced a record 32 steers, all of which were purchased by Culinary Services in the spring. As they care for the steers, students create monthly reports for the producers who donated them, including growth and health information about the steers and a detailed report once the steers are harvested. Awards are given annually to the student who raises the best initial feeder steer, the steer with the top rate of gain and the steer that produces the best carcass.
“Steer-A-Year contributions are important in enhancing the educational experience for MSU students,” said DelCurto-Wyffels. “I am excited about the progress made and partnerships formed through this program, and we are planning for a very successful project this year.”
Those interested in donating or learning more about the Steer-A-Year program can contact DelCurto-Wyffels at 406-994-3752 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Montana State University