University Livestock Sale Provides an Exceptional Teaching Tool and Effective Program Support
Dunnington, E. A., Eversole, D. E., Umberger, Pam, NACTA Journal
The Hokie Harvest Sale is a public auction of university-owned horses and beef cattle and is the culmination of two undergraduate courses taught in the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences at Virginia Tech: "Equine Behavior and Training" (APSC 2724) and "Livestock Merchandising" (APSC 3764/AT 0294). Students in "Equine Behavior and Training" are responsible for training, fitting, and presenting horses in the sale. Students in "Livestock Merchandising" organize, advertise, and conduct the sale along with halter-breaking and presenting beef cattle. Practical, authentic experiences in handling and training livestock and in conducting a public auction provide valuable opportunities for students to learn a variety of aspects of livestock merchandising while participating in an exciting, well-supported, and well-received event. Skills and knowledge attained from both classes have enabled students to conduct successful livestock sales on their farms or to obtain gainful employment in the livestock and equine industries and with various breed associations. Gross sales from the two separate auctions have exceeded one million dollars over the 11-year history of the sale and are channeled directly into the departmental beef cattle and equine programs, providing much needed financial support.
Participation in organizing and conducting the Hokie Harvest Sale at Virginia Tech has allowed students to gain essential knowledge in livestock merchandising, to understand and accomplish marketing objectives, and to prepare for smooth transition into the agricultural industries. Economic returns in livestock operations are greatly affected by buying and selling decisions (Petritz et al., 1982). University students have learned that the marketing process consists of more than just selling commodities that are produced (Kennedy et al., 2001). To market effectively, one must have a sustainable program and an in-demand product. Income from livestock sales is highly dependent upon quality of the product, costs of marketing, and manner in which the product is presented (Jack and Eversole, 1997; Kohls and UhI, 1998; Kennedy et al., 2001).
Industry leaders and other employers have stated that agricultural business graduates have adequate technical knowledge but often lack skills associated with oral and written presentation, team management and public relations (Gunn, 1983; Radhakrishna and Bruening, 1994; Bruening and Scanlon, 1995). Practical learning experiences are often lacking in the undergraduate education process (Bekkum, 1993). Successful and satisfying learning is accomplished effectively when students are involved in realistic learning situations and the application of practical economics (Hunter, 1982; Laney 1988; Carlson and Schodt, 1995; Henneberry and Beshear, 1995). Student surveys favor integration of professionals to teach proper practical information, thus easing the transition from college to the work force (Henneberry, 1990; Stoll, 1988; Hoerner, 1994). The primary objective of this paper is to illustrate how two undergraduate courses at Virginia Tech provide formal training in applied livestock merchandising and marketing.
Employers of graduates were surveyed by the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences (APSC) at Virginia Tech (VT) in 1993 concerning the level of preparedness of recent graduates and their ability to become valued employees. The survey indicated that college students would be more attractive to prospective employers if, during their undergraduate careers, they had experienced more realistic events associated with the agricultural industry. Faculty met with alumni and employers and devised a plan to provide students with such experiences. The major result of this collective effort was to craft an undergraduate course "Livestock Merchandising" that would take advantage of the wide range of expertise of APSC alumni in various careers. …