In the middle of May, I started my summer internship at Summit Farms in Alden as one of their beef production/feedlot interns. It was not an internship that I had expected to go after since it is an operations internship, and my field of study is agricultural communications. However, I felt that having this summer job would allow me to gain more first-hand knowledge of the agricultural industry and livestock operations specifically.
As a background, Summit farms is a large-scale farming operation that raises corn and soybeans on 14,000 acres in central Iowa. They also purchase and raise around 20,000 head of feeder cattle per year. There are five feedlot sites, with four of them being confinement buildings. They each have working facilities to run the cattle through the chutes, and the floors are slotted with a layer of cement and rubber over a pit to collect manure.
With a lot of new steers being purchased from backgrounding yards, most of my mornings start with processing new cows. While doing that, we give them new ear tags, vaccinate them, administer dewormer, and inject growth implants before they are released back into their respected pens. Other mornings, we may be injecting new implants in older steers that will last approximately 200 days before they are ready for market. All the steers are to be handled as safely and carefully as possible to provide a low-stress environment.
Throughout the day, we have people walking pens at every site and to make sure the steers are healthy. We look for any that may be sick, crippled, or have a case of footrot. Any that need to be treated are sorted out of the pen and led to the chute to be treated for its specific diagnosis. Then they are released back into their pen or the building’s hospital depending on the treatment. With not coming from a livestock background, I have enjoyed learning how to treat cattle myself. Between running the hydraulic chute and administering treatments, I have been able to learn more about cattle health in just the first few weeks of my internship.
When I am not working cattle, I may be doing to some odds and ends jobs around the home site as well as the other confinements as there is always work that needs to be done (weather permitting).
I feel it is safe to say that I am taking full advantage of my internship so far to learn as much as I can. My cattle team has been great to work with and have been nothing but helpful. The other employees have been helpful with teaching me new things, and they are always willing to answer any questions I may have. As the summer progresses, I plan on exploring different aspects that Summit Farms has to offer as I seek to learn more about the agricultural industry.