Boot camp. The expression conjures images of basic but intense, hands-on training. And that’s just what happens when 30 young men and women spend a week at the Feedlot Nutritionist Boot Camp in Amarillo, Texas, although in this case the trainees are university graduate students learning the real-life intricacies of cattle feedlot nutrition.
"We invite in 30 graduate students from throughout the U.S. who are studying feedlot nutrition for a week-long short course," said Kansas State University associate professor, Chris Reinhardt of the training, this year to be held Aug. 4 to 8.
"Most of the instruction is provided by highly influential industry leaders – practicing veterinarians, feedlot nutritionists and industry professionals working in all levels of the U.S. feedlot industry," said Reinhardt, who is organizing the event in conjunction with Mike Hubbert of New Mexico State University’s Clayton Livestock Research Center.
Universities do a tremendous job of educating students in the basic and applied sciences necessary to best serve modern agriculture, he said, but one area lacking in conventional graduate education is extensive exposure to industry practices beyond university research-scale facilities.
The "Boot Camp" is designed to give some of the country’s best graduate students who are aiming for a career in beef cattle nutrition insight into modern feedlot industry production practices.
"In this way, we connect the basic sciences being taught at the university with application of those sciences in production practice," said Reinhardt, who is a feedlot specialist with K-State Research and Extension. "University professors certainly have an understanding, but it is the actual practicing industry professionals who are, daily, combining controlled studies, observational data, applied epidemiology, and ‘soft science’ to solve industry challenges in real time."
During the week, students from different universities work in two-person teams on projects to solve a current industry problem. That helps them learn about real-life challenges and how to handle them and get to know and work with others who will one day be their industry peers.
The week also presents opportunities for the students to interact with industry professionals – beneficial for the students as they move into careers, as well as for the professionals as they consider who to hire.
K-State hosted a similar event in 2012 and nutrition and animal health companies are still contacting Reinhardt regarding the students who went through that training, he said.
Thanks to industry support, students are only responsible for their travel to and from the training.
"Graduates of the Boot Camp will lead the beef industry for decades to come," Reinhardt said.
More information about K-State’s Feedlot Nutritionist Boot Camp is available by contacting Reinhardt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 785-532-1672.