• Agriculture students head stateside for a larger than life experience

A group of Level 3 students from our Extended Diploma in Agriculture course were lucky enough to travel to Iowa to further their knowledge of large-scale production methods and to sample the American way of life.

During this unique study tour, a particular emphasis was placed on the systems of livestock and business management used in countries like the USA where production is on a large scale.

The group of 21 students, who were accompanied by 3rd Year Course Manager James Bickerton, visited a range of ‘progressive’ beef, dairy and arable farms, and met business owners who imparted valuable information about all aspects of their farming enterprises. These farmers are embracing new technology to assist them in collecting, recording and analysing data to improve overall efficiency.

This tour was made possible due to the links forged with Shelly Taylor, Associate Director of Global Programs at Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture & Life Sciences and Professor Leo Timms who is an Extension Dairy Specialist at the university’s dairy farm. Professor Timms assisted in organising visits and shared his vast knowledge of nutrition and anatomy with the group.

One of many highlights was visiting the Whiskey Creek Feedlot in Woodbury County. Here, students received a warm welcome from Dan and Amelia Peterson who own this large scale enterprise which houses a staggering 20,000 head of beef cattle.

The dairy industry was explored with a visits to the Blood Dairy Farm and to Kirkmam Dairies where owner Matt Kirkmam runs a herd of over 6,000 cattle. Despite hailing from a non-farming family, Matt has developed a highly successful dairy production business and he shared his story with the group.

Students appreciated the magnitude of US arable farming during a trip to Lanehaven Farm in Northeast Iowa. Here, the Hollis family produce seed corn, commercial corn and soybean alongside running a successful hog operation with a strong emphasis being placed on ‘Lean’ Management.

There was also plenty of opportunities to embrace American culture with activities including a visit to the training facilities of the Iowa State Cyclones and a tour of their 61,500 seat stadium. Another highlight was an evening at the Dallas County Rodeo and a chance to meet ‘real-life’ cowboys.

Tour organiser James Bickerton commented: “This was a fantastic group of students to accompany. We had an intense visiting schedule with early starts and late finishes, but this was a rewarding experience for all involved. America is a vast country and we covered 1,500 miles, saw 54,000 cattle, 20,000 hogs, plenty of horses and ate a huge amount of food! All of our hosts were amazing and we enjoyed American hospitality at its very best.”

James has already started planning for next year’s study tour to Texas in partnership with Texas A&M University. He plans to return to Iowa in 2019.