In May 2010, selected first- and second-year students participated in the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Food Animal Production Tour. 

One of the best parts about the tour is how we got to see the whole process from farm to finish. This puts the food animal veterinarians’ role into perspective when you see the final products like cheese and beef that is soon to go out to consumers. We would recommend that all students acquire this kind of exposure to food production medicine because it’s an important part in our profession. We are so lucky to have had the opportunity to take part in what the panhandle has to offer to aspiring veterinarians. Speaking for the whole group, this experience was invaluable and has changed our outlook on our future career paths. For some students, it has led them to further their learning by completing externships in food animal medicine at different practices, including dairy, beef and mixed animal.       

This is the third year that students have participated in this tour, which was a great success. This 6-day adventure counts as one credit hour of required electives in the veterinary curriculum. The 10 chosen students came from different backgrounds with varied veterinary experience. Students came from equine, beef cattle, small animal and mixed, but we all came together to learn more than we would have ever imagined about food animal production.

The tour allowed us to visit with multiple veterinarians from different types of practices. We got see that rural mixed practices are an integral assets to the local community and provide care for all the animals in the area. The swine/dairy practice does production-based medicine and consulting. This allowed us to see the different options available veterinarians working in food animal medicine. 

At the swine production facility, we had the opportunity to visit with associate professor and swine extension specialist Dr. Jodi Sterle and Dr. Scanlon Daniels, who took through the nursery and the farrowing houses. We were fortunate to be allowed on to the premises to witness all the stages of swine production. Dr. Conrad Spangler took us through Full Circle Jerseys, where we saw milking on the rotary carousel,and how they raised their own calves on the dairy. It was interesting to see how environmentally friendly this operation was by reusing water and composting bedding. Touring the feedlot, we saw thousands of steers and heifers, but after going through the feed mill, we learned that their major source of income was in the million pounds of feed they produced everyday. Dr. Kinnard showed us several cow-calf operations, where we met ranchers and got exposed to general cattle work. Not only did we get the chance to meet with veterinarians and production units, we had the opportunity to see the industry side by visiting with representatives from the TAHC and TCFA. We discussed the prominent issues facing food animal medicine today, including the ever so important issue of antimicrobial resistance.

While traveling we rode together on a chartered bus and discussed topics such as media training and animal welfare. We are fortunate to have the chance to see all these facilities and now we can take this knowledge to inform the public about the process. Everything done at these operations served a purpose to improve animals’ health and well being. It’s good to have an inside view and know that animals a treated well, so that we can go out answers questions about animal agriculture. Veterinarians really do have a part in feeding the world.

The tour included stops at several veterinary clinics including Cross Timbers Veterinary Hospital in Bowie, Circle H Headquarters in Dalhart, and MabankAnimalHospital. We also visited Murphy Brown LLC, a swine production operation; Full Circle Jerseys Dairy; the Dalhart Jersey Ranch, which raises replacement heifers; Cactus Feeders Southwest Feedyard; and several cow-calf operations. We also visited Hilmar Cheese Plant, Cargill Meat Solutions harvesting facility, TVMDL in Amarillo, Texas Cattle Feeders Association and Texas Animal Health Commission. We want to thank everyone that took time out of their schedules to interact and teach us about their operations and share their expertise. 

We would especially like to thank Dr. and Mrs. Cocanougher of Decatur, who generously donated money for the trip so that students would have the opportunity to experience the different aspects of food animal production medicine.Without their support, this trip would not have been possible. Intervet/Schering Plough Animal Health and Pfizer Animal Health also sponsored meals with practitioners. A special thank you to Dr. Dan Posey and Dr. Virginia Fajt for taking us on a spectacular adventure.