Purebred Beef Unit offers students chance to gain experience


Students and faculty alike enjoy working and learning at the Purebred Beef Teaching Unit.

The Purebred Beef Teaching Unit located off Kimball Avenue allows students to experience the cattle industry through hands-on work experience and different teaching experience offered at the unit.

The teaching unit runs around 300 breeding age purebred Angus, Hereford, and Simmental cows on 4,000 acres of native bluestem grass outside of town each year. 180 spring calves are currently being raised there, according to Tyler Leonhard, a 2013 K-State alumnus with a degree in animal science.

The unit’s mission is “to provide undergraduate students with practical experience in breeding, feeding, management and marketing of purebred seedstock as well as give livestock selection and general animal science courses the opportunity to evaluate quality cattle,” according to K-State’s animal sciences and industry Web page.

Leonhard said he has been the manager and herdsman at the unit for just over a year. He grew up on a small cow-calf operation and backgrounding yard. Backgrounding is putting cattle on a high roughage diet such as wheat pasture to allow them a chance to grow and acclimate before being put in a higher intensity feed yard where they will be finished out for beef.

During his time at K-State, Leonhard said he has worked at the Beef Cattle Research Center and the Purebred Beef Teaching Unit, as well as having an internship at a large-scale feed yard. After he graduated he was in feed sales and consulting until he came back to manage the teaching unit.

Jesse Page, senior in agricultural economics, works at the unit as a student worker. He has been there two years and said he thoroughly enjoys his work.

“The unit has a good reputation for being centered on students,” Page said.

Page said although he is taking 22 credit hours, he can still work at the teaching unit gaining real world cattle experience because of the flexible scheduling.

“I have great students employed here, but we continually strategize how to best accomplish jobs and objectives with the schedules my students have,” Leonhard said.

According to Page, working at the teaching unit is like taking an animal science class and being paid for it. He said he has really enjoyed and benefited from meeting many faculties as they teach or work on things such as reproductive technologies.

“The most rewarding part for me is the student interaction we have,” Leonhard said. “Whether it is visiting judging teams, (K-State) students, or FFA and 4-H kids, our cattle help hundreds of young people further their knowledge throughout the year.”

One of the classes cattle are utilized in is Livestock Sales Management. Nicole Armbrister, senior in animal science and industry, said she took this class last year.

“The class is a yearlong, we work the last half of the first semester and the first half of the second semester learning about how sales are put on successfully and then helping with the the Legacy Sale,” Armbrister said.

Armbrister said many students that take this class also work at the unit, so they are involved in clipping the cattle to get them sale ready. On sale day everyone is involved by working at the buyers’ table setting buyers up with a bidder number and with settling the bill after the sale, pushing bulls up to the sale ring or helping move cattle.

There are 10 students employed at the unit currently, according to Leonhard and Page.

“It is great to get other perspectives from around the country through working with my fellow K-Staters and coworkers,” Page said. “It is a fun atmosphere working with other young people who are passionate about cattle.”