A Range of Responsibilities
Agribusiness student develops working knowledge on rangeland
Wyatt Smith’s morning commute to the office involved waking up in a tent at 5:30 a.m., saddling a horse and riding to rangeland on Rock Creek Ranch near Hailey, Idaho.
Smith, a University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) senior studying agribusiness, spent the past summer living in a tent at Rock Creek, working with an intensive grazing project, moving cattle to mob graze overgrown meadows and maintaining fences.
The cattle were moved to Rock Creek Ranch from the UI Nancy M. Cummings Research, Extension and Education Center near Salmon to study rangeland development and use with components in cattle efficiency and plant monitoring as it relates to grazing and conservation efforts in the state.
Rock Creek Ranch is a collaborative rangeland with a partnership between the University of Idaho, The Nature Conservancy and the Wood River Land Trust. The three organizations are launching research and educational efforts to help build a better understanding of rangeland use and sustainable practices.
Smith said he was prepared for the internship by a culmination of experiences and knowledge inside the classroom and out.
“There’s not very many opportunities within the university setting or anywhere you work that’s going to offer you something like that,” Smith said of his experience. “You’re really a self-starter and you’re on your own with that kind of work, and I like doing that. I enjoy it.”
Carl Hunt, an animal and veterinary science professor emeritus in CALS, said Smith is innovative in his own way, both with his work in the classroom and through the Steer-A-Year program.
“He had all the ingredients of someone who was just a wonderful employee and he applied that both to the classroom and to the work setting. He has just been a delightful person,” Hunt said. “He gets along with students and he has that ability to lead because he’s collaborative.”
Smith, a Nevada native whose parents work as veterinarians, was a student manager in the Steer-A-Year program for two years during his time at UI. He also worked at the UI Beef Center and is currently the president of the student branch of the Idaho Cattle Association.
He said his involvement on campus is limited to a select few activities and organizations because he strives to be good at a few things, not mediocre at a lot.
Hunt, who helps oversee the Steer-A-Year program, said Smith approached him about helping manage steers as a freshman, despite the position being carved out for upper-class students.
“He was so gently persistent that I thought, ‘Well, you know, he seems like he would be good,’” Hunt said. “So I gave him a try and I never regretted it. He was such a good combination of a hard worker, smart and having common sense.”
Smith will graduate from UI in May 2017 and hopes to one day run his own cattle operation or manage his own firm, helping contribute to the next generation along the way by providing opportunities through his work.
He said although those in his industry don’t immediately get rich or famous for their work, he feels satisfied and fulfilled by the hard work and effort it takes to generate results.
“There are so many things within our line of work that are out of our control, but you play the best hand you’re dealt and at the end of the day when they throw that shovel-full of dirt on your face they’re either going to say, ‘Yeah, he was a good guy to work with’ or not,” Smith said.
Article by Jake Smith, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences