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New livestock business degree prepares future leaders

The degree at Colorado State University will combine engaged industry experiences, hands-on learning and curriculum from agricultural business and animal sciences.

April 6, 2023

4 Min Read
Cattle in Colorado
Cattle roam in Colorado.USDA ARS

A new degree from Colorado State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences aims to prepare the next generation of skilled professionals to lead one of Colorado’s most important industries. Launching this fall, the interdisciplinary Livestock Business Management degree will combine engaged industry experiences, hands-on learning and curriculum from agricultural business and animal sciences.

“We designed this new program to prepare our students with the skills to meet the needs of the livestock industry and become tomorrow’s livestock industry leaders,” said Hayley Chouinard, department head for the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. “Graduates will be equipped with knowledge of business, budgets and hedging, as well as the needs of livestock, anatomy and nutrition. They will understand the context and reality of the world of livestock and be ready to make business decisions.”

In partnership with industry

Livestock production and processing is a $7.5 billion-a-year industry in Colorado. Cattle and calves are the state’s largest agricultural commodity, with three million head of cattle generating more than $4 billion in revenue annually. In 2021, Colorado’s 200,000 milk cows produced 5.2 billion pounds of milk valued at nearly $900 million. The state is also home to more than 600,000 hogs and ranks third nationally in sheep and lamb production.

To build on current success and honor its rich history, the livestock industry will need a skilled workforce that understands how to apply business decision-making to the physical needs of livestock to help lead it into the future.

“Colorado has deep roots in livestock production,” Founder and CEO of Arcadia Asset Management and Vice President of Five Rivers Cattle Feeding Jordan Levi said. “This program allows an important industry in Colorado – and an important industry in the nation – to hire people who are specifically trained to enter livestock production and make an immediate impact.

“CSU is a world-class university that has recognized that there is a need for this kind of program,” Levi added. “This is a great way for CSU to differentiate itself.”

Levi, alongside more than a dozen livestock industry partners and advocacy groups like the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and Colorado Livestock Association, influenced the design of the program to ensure the curriculum aligned with industry needs.

Randy Blach, CEO of CattleFax and a 1980 Animal Sciences graduate, also supports the design and development of Livestock Business Management.

“For decades, CattleFax has hired CSU graduates, and it is essential for us to continue to come back to CSU to recruit young people who are prepared to be successful in today’s business environment,” Blach said. “This major is going to develop better equipped students who can come work in our businesses – or run their own operations – and they are going to be better employees and have a higher probability of success because of all of the things that they are learning.”

The student experience

Livestock business management is an interdisciplinary program jointly administered by the departments of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Animal Sciences. It features six integrated courses and draws on agricultural business and animal sciences coursework for a curriculum that is tailored to support the development of well-rounded practitioners. With a focus on scientific rigor and experiential learning, the program aims to develop leaders equipped to fulfill industry workforce needs to improve the lives of people and animals.

Starting their first semester, students will engage with industry leaders — both in the classroom and through site visits — to get a better understanding of the landscape of Colorado’s livestock industry. As they progress in the program, their interactions will become more frequent and meaningful as students learn what it takes to serve in a leadership role, partner with a company on a hands-on research project, and learn to communicate effectively about what they learned and gained from the experience.

“If you are going to work in agriculture, you need a broad and diverse skillset to be successful,” Blach said. “These students will have the tools they need to be able to grow into significant management and leadership roles within our industry.”

Livestock Business Management will also be part of the Department of Agricultural Resource and Economics’ Signature Works program, which guides students to build a portfolio of experiences that support development of skills in technical competency, critical thinking, leadership, professional development and communication.

Blach noted that students who go into production agriculture on their own, or return home to a family business, are better equipped to be successful because of the integrated curriculum specifically designed to better prepare them as business owners and operators.

“The industry and the professionals are all going to benefit.”

Get involved

The first cohort of Livestock Business Management students will begin coursework in Fall 2023, and rolling admissions for the program will begin with the Spring 2024 semester. Students interested in the major can contact Susan Brown, recruitment coordinator for the College of Agricultural Sciences, at [email protected] or (970) 391-0955.

Student success often depends on financial support in the form of scholarships. If you would be willing to support students in this new Livestock Business Management degree program with a scholarship gift, please contact the College of Agricultural Sciences Development at [email protected] or (970) 491-0909.

Source: Colorado State University

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