A Summer on the Ranch
CALS students gain valuable hands-on experience during summer internship
Abigail White and Virginia Monk took a hands-on approach to learning the ranching lifestyle and trade during summer 2020.
They spent 10 weeks interning at the University of Idaho’s Nancy M. Cummings Research, Extension and Education Center near Salmon. The cow-calf operation and forage research station extends 1,100 acres along the Salmon River and offers educational opportunities for U of I College of Agricultural and Life Sciences students and others involved in the livestock industry.
The internship focused primarily on ranch management and forage research. Every day, White and Monk looked after the Idaho Cattle Association’s stocker steers that are raised for the Grass Futurity Competition — an annual event in which cattle producers in the state donate a steer to the association. The steers are grazed from May through September and individuals who donated the top gainers receive prizes.
White and Monk also helped with other cattle management responsibilities, including pregnancy checking and taking blood samples, and assisted with day-to-day ranch duties, such as putting out minerals for cattle and moving irrigation.
In addition, White and Monk helped conduct forage research by collecting, drying and weighing samples, and irrigating test plots.
“It was amazing to learn how valuable research is to the agriculture industry,” Monk said. “I knew it was important, but we really got to see and understand its value being involved.”
White, a junior in CALS who moved from Seattle to Moscow to pursue her bachelor’s degree in animal and veterinary science: production option, decided to apply for the internship because she wanted experience working with cattle and was curious about research.
“I learned that I definitely want to work with cattle in the future,” White said. “We sort of had a hand in everything on the ranch, so I feel prepared to take on a variety of different roles.”
Monk, a junior in CALS studying agricultural education, grew up in Genesee. She spent time on her grandfather’s crop operation in Uniontown and studied forages in FFA, but similar to White, applied for the internship because she wanted to gain experience in ranch management.
White and Monk enjoyed working together and problem-solving as a team.
“We sometimes had very different approaches to tasks and problems we faced,” Monk said. “It worked out because we really balanced each other well and learned from each other’s perspectives.”
The duo values the time they spent working with and learning from experts at the ranch.
“My favorite part was the community that I was able to immerse myself into,” White said. “It was an amazing experience and I am grateful to have met and learned from everyone at the ranch.”
John Hall, superintendent at the center, said both White and Monk had an inquisitive nature and embraced every opportunity to learn.
“They both had super attitudes and an incredible work ethic,” Hall said. “Sometimes I even had to tell them, ‘Hey, you need to take a little time off.’”
Internships are offered at the center every spring and summer. The spring internship focuses primarily on cattle management, whereas the summer internship focuses more on forage research. The internship assignments are often tailored toward student interests.
Hall said he looks to fill the internship positions with upperclassman who are interested and enthusiastic about the opportunity to gain real-world experience. Students who have a background in animal science, range science or agricultural education typically benefit more from the internships because the hands-on work reinforces their classroom learning.
To apply for the spring internship, students should submit an application to Hall via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications should include a letter of interest explaining why the student is interested in the position and how they think it will benefit their education and future career, a resume and an unofficial copy of their transcript(s).
Article by Jean Parrella, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Photos by Joe Pallen, University Communications and Marketing
Published in August 2020