Colorado State University’s Seedstock Merchandising Team could also be named the “Elite Eight.” Out of thousands of undergraduate students, only eight are selected each year to be members of the prestigious team that will be competing in the coming weeks at the National Western Stock Show. Rachel Hughes is one of those eight.
Hughes, a dedicated and driven senior majoring in equine sciences, animal science, and agricultural business, is a member of this year’s CSU Seedstock Team. Hughes attended high school in Estes Park, but did not grow up with a background in agriculture. Even without that experience, she’s developed a deep passion for working with cattle.
“I started off at CSU as an equine sciences and agricultural business double major, and when I was a sophomore, I added animal science,” said Hughes. “That was probably the best decision I ever made. I’ve always loved working with horses, but once I added animal science, I discovered I loved working with beef cattle too.”
It was when she started working with beef cattle that she heard about the Seedstock Team and decided it would be an experience to help propel her toward her career goals. The team raises bulls selected for specific characteristics. For more than a decade, the Seedstock Merchandising Team has overseen the selection, development, and marketing of these genetics.
Hughes went through the rigorous selection process of application, review by previous team members and industry representatives and a final formal interview before she was chosen. Since she was selected to be on the team, Hughes has been working with her teammates at CSU’s Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center near Fort Collins to develop and prepare the cattle they’ve selected for the National Western Stock Show.
“The cattle drug us around quite a bit, but it was a lot of fun,” said Hughes. “They’re definitely ready for the stock show.
The Seedstock Team will be showing four pens of cattle, selected from the 2016-born calf crop produced at the ARDEC facility. They’ll also be hosting a booth in the stockyards.
“We’ll have information about our Seedstock Team and Colorado State University in our booth,” said Hughes. “We’ll be serving a lunch one day that’s sponsored by CSU’s Animal Sciences Department. Our cows will be with us during the day and we hope people will come out and talk with us. We’ll be showing our Herefords on Jan. 13 and the Angus on Jan. 14.”
As proud as she is to show off the Seedstock Team’s cattle, Hughes is also really looking forward to the opportunity to network with industry leaders at the stock show.
“Rachel is a great example of a student who thrives on the Seedstock Merchandising Team,” said Jason Ahola, advisor to the team and an associate professor of animal sciences at CSU. “Through the real-world experience Rachel and her teammates are gaining, they will not only learn intricate details about the U.S. seedstock industry, but develop a set of skills that will be valuable to them in their careers, including leadership, teamwork, accountability, time management, and interpersonal communications. Students also are able to develop a large network of contacts within the beef cattle industry.”
With a wide range of opportunities available to her, Hughes know that whatever she chooses for her future career, it will involve beef cattle.
“I really like the seedstock side of the industry,” said Hughes. “I’m really interested in both reproduction and nutrition.”
“Working with passionate and hard-working students like Rachel is one of the highlights of my job at CSU,” said Ahola. “I love to see them build their skill sets in front of my eyes by taking advantage of opportunities that become available as a result of being on the team. A large number of prior Seedstock Team students are now in leadership positions throughout the U.S. beef industry.”
Visit the team at the National Western Stock Show
The Seedstock Merchandising Team will have cattle at the National Western Stock Show Jan. 7-15 (Jan. 14 is CSU day at the Stock Show). During that time, students will host a CSU booth in “the yards.” The team will host a free lunch in the CSU yard pens on Thursday, Jan. 12, at noon and will show their cattle on Friday, Jan. 13 (two pens of Hereford cattle) and Saturday, Jan. 14 (two pens of Angus cattle) beginning at 8 a.m.
CSU has supplied high-quality genetics to cow/calf producers via an annual sale of 35 to 50 Angus and Hereford bulls for 40 years. The bulls are produced from a 175-head seedstock cowherd at CSU’s ARDEC facility.
Each year, the students who make up CSU’s Seedstock Team actively market bulls and heifers via a spring production sale on the fourth Saturday in March. This allows for a real-world, hands-on learning environment and an opportunity for students to network within the beef cattle industry. This year’s Annual Bull Sale will be held on March 25 at ARDEC.