Building a Career
Makayla Proett first discovered her love for livestock during summers and weekends spent on her grandparent’s cow-calf operation in Lakeview, Oregon. Internship experiences as a student at the University of Idaho introduced her to her future career working on a feedlot.
Working with Cattle
Proett has always enjoyed working with livestock and knew she wanted a career working with cattle. She enrolled in U of I’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences to study animal and veterinary science: production option but wasn’t sure exactly what career she wanted.
During her sophomore year, her advisor encouraged her to attend the U of I Career Fair to learn about internship opportunities. She spoke with Agri Beef and learned more about their feedlot in American Falls and decided to take a chance.
“When I originally came to school, I did not think I would want to work on a feedlot,” she said. “I grew up knowing about the ranching side, but I didn’t really know what happens when you sell your calves. So that’s kind of why I wanted to do it at first — to learn the next step. Once I got there, it’s a great opportunity to work with livestock every day but also build a career.”
Proett began considering feedlots as a viable career option after the internship with Agri Beef but decided to complete an additional internship at a different feedlot to make sure that she was on the right path. She attended the Career Fair again as a junior and accepted a position as management trainee intern for summer 2021 at Simplot’s Burbank, Washington feedlot.
As a management trainee intern, Proett was immersed in all areas of running a 60,000 head lot. She learned everything from how to weld, accurately laying down feed in a bunk while driving a semi-truck, and how to spot sick cattle from horseback with the vet crew, to the paperwork involved in the shipping and receiving department.
While she learned a lot about the overall operation, working directly with the cattle remains her favorite part of the job.
“My favorite part was probably the vet crew,” she said. “I really liked getting to work with the cattle every day, hands-on and figuring out what type of vaccines they should get or evaluating them and figuring out which way to go as far as vaccinating them. I liked working hands-on with the cattle and moving them and working the chute, which you get to do every day.”
Exploring Career Paths
Proett’s internship experiences helped her discover how she could turn her love for working with cattle into a career. She encourages all students to complete at least one internship.
“I think internships are something that everyone should do, and it showed me what I want to do,” she said. “Internships are a great way, for 90 days, to figure out if you like something or not. If you don’t like it that’s fine but take the chance while you’re in school to do these opportunities versus waiting until you’re out of school and you have an actual job that you’re committed to.
“They don’t expect you to have any knowledge. That’s what’s cool about internships. You go in and they are willing to teach you. Through both of my internships they were so nice as long as you wanted to learn.”
Originally from North Bend, Oregon, Proett decided to attend U of I because of the smaller campus and hands-on opportunities.
“I didn’t want to go to a huge university, and I wanted to expand and go somewhere by myself,” she said. “I really liked how the department was smaller but still had the Sheep Center, the Beef Center, the dairy, the feed mill, Steer-a-Year, and Vandal Brand Meats. There were still tons of opportunities to do hands-on stuff but on a smaller scale.
“If you come here, you will get the most personal college experience that I think you could get versus a big university. All the professors are so kind and eager to help you and help you find jobs and careers and opportunities. They really do care about the students.”
Proett will graduate in December 2021 and her internship experiences have helped lay the foundation for her future. She will return to the Agri Beef feedlot in American Falls after graduation, as a management trainee in the cattle department.
Article by Amy Calabretta, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Photos by Melissa Hartley, University Communications and Marketing
Published in November 2021