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Research today helps sustain ranching for tomorrow

Jesse Bussard Published on 24 May 2012
Jessie Bussard

I’m what you might call an unconventional cattlewoman. When I tell folks I hail from south-central Pennsylvania, cattle country isn’t the first thing they think of. They find it hard to believe that Pennsylvania ranks 20th in the nation for beef production and is home to approximately 1.6 million head of cattle.

My family has a long history in agriculture – though cattle haven’t always been our main focus, it has always been a part of the farming operation.

Both my grandfathers raised cattle. Growing up, I can remember Grandma Bussard telling me stories of Grandpa’s stockmanship skills and how it wasn’t uncommon for him to be found in the pasture walking through his purebred Angus herd.

That being so, cattle haven’t always been my main interest in life (horses were my first love). It wasn’t until I attended college at Penn State University that the cattle addiction took hold of me. There I became active in Block & Bridle Club and eventually helped form the first ever chapter of Collegiate Cattlewomen on our campus.

It was through involvement in these clubs, my animal science and agronomy courses, and some very influential professors, that I realized the cattle industry was where I needed to forge my path.

The professors I’m referring to were Dr. Marvin Hall, a forage agronomist, Dr. Dan Kniffen, a beef production specialist, and Dr. Burt Staniar, an equine nutritionist.

Because of them I decided to attend graduate school at the University of Kentucky to study forages and livestock grazing systems. I’m close to finishing up my degree and will be graduating in August.

I see my future in the cattle industry as both challenging and invigorating. There is so much opportunity available to my generation. Though some may see it as daunting, I only see possibilities.

Yes, there are challenges, but you have that in any industry. This is where we, as young people, need to think outside the box.

While older generations are hesitant to change, our generation is more willing to do things differently. Just because your father or grandfather did it a certain way doesn’t mean you have to or should.

For me specifically, I see the area of livestock grazing management becoming more important as we head into the future.

With the environmental effects of climate change and the threat of less land being available for livestock grazing, we will need to more effectively manage our land resources to ensure sustainability of our industry. This will be accomplished through more management intensive grazing systems and improved forages.

Grazing will help us to maintain plant biodiversity and wildlife habitat and prevent the encroachment of invasive weeds, all while allowing us to continue to produce food for our nation on land that may not otherwise be suitable for agricultural production.

My goal is to better understand these livestock grazing systems and, in turn, find ways to help farmers and ranchers improve upon them, ensuring the sustainability of my industry along the way.  end_mark

Jesse Bussard is an agricultural journalist and blogger, forage agronomist and animal scientist. She is a native of Pennsylvania and a fifth-generation agriculturalist with a passion for agriculture and the beef cattle community. Learn more about Bussard on her blog “Pearl Snaps’ Ponderings,” and follow her on Twitter. Click here to contact her by email.

PHOTO

Jesse Bussard. Photo courtesy of Jesse Bussard.

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