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No bull: Students organize sale

University of Nebraska students learn livestock marketing by hosting their own bull sale.

Elizabeth Hodges, Staff Writer

May 9, 2024

7 Slides

Turning the calendar over to the new year, producers are sure to see many different bull sale offerings across states. But the University of Nebraska-Lincoln annual bull sale is different than most sales.

This sale is conducted by the UNL beef cattle merchandising class, where students spend the semester looking at data and pulling together resources for the annual sale. These students come from varied backgrounds where they can pool together their talents.

“It was started primarily to provide undergraduate students here at UNL with the opportunity to learn about what goes in to putting on a bull sale,” says Matt Spangler, professor and beef genetics specialist at UNL. “Also, there is an opportunity for hands-on education, not only relative to working with beef cattle, but also interacting with potential buyers.”

Spangler says that students learn several skills by taking this class, including applied beef genetics, practical skills regarding bull soundness exams and the opportunity to hear from industry professionals.

Expanding knowledge

“I decided to take this class as just a way to be able to strengthen my passion and knowledge within the beef industry,” explains Ainsley Fischer, a senior in animal sciences. “Also, it is just learning what it takes to set up a sale and being able to interact with producers.”

Producers come to this sale with different characteristics they are looking for. Jay Wolverton, the attending veterinarian for the sale and a cattle producer, realizes the genetic diversity at this sale.

“These are performance-tested bulls, and they are looking to produce pounds while also developing genetics for certain traits like calving ease, growth and carcass advantages,” Wolverton says.

But when producers buy bulls from the university, they are not just investing in their own genetics, but the money goes back into the teaching herd so students for years to come can have this experience.

To learn more about the students who organized the 31st annual UNL bull sale, visit

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About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Hodges

Staff Writer, Farm Progress

Growing up on a third-generation purebred Berkshire hog operation, Elizabeth Hodges of Julian, Neb., credits her farm background as showing her what it takes to be involved in the ag industry. She began her journalism career while in high school, reporting on producer progress for the Midwest Messenger newspaper.

While a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she became a Husker Harvest Days intern at Nebraska Farmer in 2022. The next year, she was hired full time as a staff writer for Farm Progress. She plans to graduate in 2024 with a double major in ag and environmental sciences communications, as well as animal science.

Being on the 2022 Meat Judging team at UNL led her to be on the 2023 Livestock Judging team, where she saw all aspects of the livestock industry. She is also in Block and Bridle and has held different leadership positions within the club.

Hodges’ father, Michael, raises hogs, and her mother, Christy, is an ag education teacher and FFA advisor at Johnson County Central. Hodges is the oldest sibling of four.

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