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Leadership programs help young beef producers succeed

By Kylene Scott

The 2013 Young Stockmen's Academy class members include (back row, from left to right) Kim Cerny, Salina; Lori Bammerlin, Manhattan; Flinton McCabe, Elk City; Garrett Rolland, Norton; Hyatt Frobose, Manhattan; Ty Riggs, Sedan; Blaze Mollhagen, Lorraine; Austin Sexten, Wamego; Garrett Cook, Hardnter; Keith Bergkamp, Pretty Prairie; (front row, from left to right) Clarke Nelson, Long Island; Sydney Shepheard, Pomona; Derick McGhee, Baldwin City; Cody Nichols, Wichita; Kathryn Taylor, Manhattan; Hattie Hartschuh, Manhattan; Christine Mushrush, Strong City; Nichole Gouldie, Wamego; Justin Keith, Allen; and Suzanne Ryan, Platte City, Mo. (Courtesy photo.)

Leadership opportunities abound for young farmers and ranchers. From commodity groups to livestock associations, many offer programs to help members gain leadership skills and experience new and unique aspects of their particular industry.

Groups like the Kansas Livestock Association and the Nebraska Cattlemen have programs to help leaders hone their skills. On the national level, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association allows members to experience a number of different aspects of their chosen industry through the Young Cattlemen’s Conference each year.

In Kansas

At the state level, the Kansas Livestock Association has the Young Stockmen’s Academy class. Young adults in their 20s are the primary target for the program, and four seminars throughout the year educate members about:

Aspects of KLA;

The legislative process;



The retail food business; and

Various segments of the beef and dairy industry.

“By exposing and educating Young Stockmen’s Academy participants to a wide array of animal agriculture, business, and consumer topics, participants have the opportunity to become more skillful livestock producers, engaged KLA members, educated consumers and stronger advocates all at the same time,” Ryan Higbie, KLA director of membership marketing and services, said.

According to KLA, seminars expose participants to leaders from all segments of the industry, including seedstock, commercial cow-calf, backgrounding, dairy, feeding, processing, supermarkets, restaurants, animal health, marketing and finance. These seminars represent an opportunity for young members to further explore the livestock business, gain essential information and network with fellow KLA members.

“The biggest benefit of completing the academy is the education and exposure young KLA members gain while seeing multiple facets of the livestock industry as well as valuable networking opportunities amongst their peers and other KLA and industry leaders,” Higbie said. “To complement this, participants see firsthand how the Kansas Livestock Association serves members in the areas of legislative representation, regulatory assistance, legal troubleshooting, communications and beyond.”

Beginning in 2006, the program has had 159 members complete YSA. The eighth class completed its year at the KLA Convention in early December. KLA accepted applications for the 2014 program until Dec. 17.

Participants are selected through a competitive application process, and preference will be given to individuals between the ages of 21 and 30 not currently enrolled in college, due to potential time conflicts between classes and the YSA program. All applicants will be notified of their status upon selection of the 2014 class.

Seminars range from legislative tours in Topeka, Kan., to visits to animal health companies to tours of feedlots and dairies. In 2013, the class had the opportunity to visit with Debbie Lyons-Blythe, an agriculture advocate.

“She taught us that we have to advocate for ourselves and educate the public because if we don’t take the opportunity to share our knowledge, who will?” Kim Cerny, Salina, Kan., YSA class member said.

At their second session the 2013 YSA group learned about the retail end of the beef industry, touring the SYSCO Food Services of Kansas City and Kansas City Steak Company.

“We also had the chance to work on our beef marketing skills at Hen House and Hy-Vee grocery stores in the Kansas City area,” Cerny said. “It was an excellent chance for us to interact with consumers and tell our stories.”

For Cerny, the third session was the highlight of the class.

“The YSA class had the opportunity to tour some great operations, participate in a BQA demonstration, and most importantly visit with KLA members who see the true value of this association,” she said. “Their dedication to teaching young producers about the value of KLA is immeasurable.”

Cody Nichols, Wichita, Kan., reiterated what Cerny said, and said one of the greatest things he got from YSA was networking opportunities.

“I think the greatest thing about the YSA is the contacts and relationships that you build during your time with the group,” Nichols said. “For instance, I became well acquainted with a DVM that works for Merck Animal Health. One of the things that he and I like to discuss when we cross paths with one another at professional meetings is the fun we had during our YSA tours. It’s a great way to build relationships with other industry folks that are trying to do the same thing that you are.”

The 2014 seminar schedule is tentatively set to include:

Seminar 1—Feb. 18 and 19, Topeka: This kickoff seminar will give the opportunity to view the important role of KLA in the livestock industry and beyond. Learn the importance of KLA’s voice in the legislative process. Develop key skills needed to operate a successful business and learn the how to’s of successful communication tools to better prepare you as a spokesperson for agriculture.

Seminar 2—May 13 to 15, Kansas City Area: The class will gather in the Kansas City area, home to more than 100 animal health-related companies. Additionally, tours of some of the top agribusinesses in the region to see some of the newest products and technology applications available to producers and consumers will also be included.

Seminar 3—Oct. 6 to 8, western Kansas: A bus tour of western Kansas to visit multiple segments of the livestock industry and hear how these leaders view the industry’s future. Tour stops will include everything from cow-calf production to the consumer. Additionally, an in-depth segment will be dedicated to the importance of being proactive and understanding the goals of a sound animal health program at all levels of production.

Seminar 4—Dec. 3 to 5, Wichita: YSA classmates will gather with fellow members at the KLA Convention to see and participate in the important development of KLA policy. Here, as a member, attendees have the opportunity to help shape the association in the important policymaking process. Top-notch speakers on topics will give insight about practices that will impact business. Finally, recap the YSA year will be recapped with fellow participants as they are recognized amongst your peers and other KLA members.

For more information about YSA visit,

In Nebraska

A group of only 10 individuals is selected to participate in the Nebraska Cattlemen Young Cattlemen’s Conference each year. The aim is to expose young and emerging leaders to various areas of the beef industry and provide them with new leadership tools. YCC for 2014 is scheduled for Jan. 21 to 23.

Bonita Lederer, director of producer education for Nebraska Cattlemen said the program is helpful to the YCC participants because they can see things go full circle from the farm or ranch to consumer’s tables.

“They see how their product on their farm or ranch is implemented to consumers,” Lederer said. “They really can relate that to what they are doing.”

Individuals are selected from nominations by NC affiliates, leaders and members to participate each year. The conference includes industry tours, presentations on association programs and policies, media training and the legislative process.

According to, “YCC looks to identify and educate leaders to help guide and strengthen our beef industry is important to the future of Nebraska’s agriculture. The Nebraska Cattlemen believe that it is important for active beef producers to see all sides of the beef industry and take an active role in telling the beef story and advocating on behalf of our way of life.”

Participants in YCC will: tour Cargill Meat Solutions Beef Facility, Cargill Meat Solutions Value Added Meat Facility, Sysco Food Service, and Skeeter Barnes restaurant; learn from a hands-on Beef 101 presentation at UNL Animal Science Department; get involved in social media and be challenged to share their beef story; understand more about current industry issues by meeting with the Nebraska Governor’s office, Attorney General’s office and Nebraska Department of Agriculture; and learn more about Nebraska Cattlemen.

Lederer said during their three-day tour, YCC participants are exposed to things ordinary people don’t get the opportunity to see, such as touring the processing and packing plants that are not normally open to the general public.

Participants will also engage in educational activities to enhance leadership skills. YCC will provide beef producers with the skills to become leaders in the industry. Participants will be asked to participate in projects and activities after attending YCC. Activities will include:

Nebraska Cattlemen Affiliate meetings;

Nebraska Cattlemen Board Meetings;

Articles for Communication Outreach;


State Fair, Cattlemen’s Ball, Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic;

Social Media;

Telling the beef story; and

PAC Auction.

Lederer hopes and expects the YCC graduates to go back to their affiliates and “go to work” for them. Future officers for NC are often gleaned from the YCC graduates.

“They gain leadership skills and get to meet with our leaders and industry leaders,” Lederer said. “They also get exposed to other aspects like social media and how it plays a role in our industry. And of course, being able to network—cow-calf guy meets the feedlot guy; someone from northeast Nebraska meets a guy from the Panhandle.”

The Nebraska YCC program is made possible by a generous sponsorship from Farm Credit Services of American and DuPont Pioneer.

Deadline for nominations was Dec. 9, but Lederer said she is always looking for applicants, and keeps nominations on file for future reference. For more information about the program, contact Bonita Lederer at 402-450-0223 or 402-329-6273 or email at


On the national level, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association offers a Young Cattlemen’s Conference, allowing members to experience a number of different aspects of their chosen industry. 2014 will mark the 35th year of the program.

According to NCBA, identifying and educating leaders to help guide and strengthen the industry has never been so important. Because NCBA serves the grassroots trade association representing the U.S. beef cattle industry, NCBA feels it is responsible to see that leadership development is successful.

Since YCC started in 1980, more than 1,000 men and women have graduated from the program. Many graduates now participate on NCBA committees and councils and others serve or have served on the board of directors. Several presidents and officers of NCBA and predecessor organizations have also participated in YCC. According to the association, the program has evolved and became the cornerstone of leadership training efforts within the cattle industry.

For more information about YCC, visit

Kylene Scott can be reached by phone at 620-227-1804 or by email at

Date: 12/16/2013


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