Innovative course at Dodge City Community College aims to prepare students
By Stuart Estes
Creating human capital to prepare students for work in the feedlot industry is the goal of an innovative cattle-handling class developed and offered by Dodge City Community College of Dodge City, Kan. Low Stress Cattle Safety was taught for the first time during the fall and spring semesters of the 2012-13 school year.
The class was an experiential learning opportunity for students to gain knowledge about and competency in safe cattle handling in a feedlot setting. The college website describes the class as an introduction to low stress cattle-handling techniques.
The course was the brainchild of Arlan Tobyne, an adjunct instructor at Dodge City Community College and feedlot industry professional. Tobyne instructed the class for the two semesters it has been offered.
“There’s not a textbook on pen riding,” Tobyne said about the necessity for a class of this nature.
Tobyne stressed the importance of the class as a means of continuing the industry through education. The goal of the class, in Tobyne’s mind, is to train replacements for feedlot professionals who will soon be leaving the industry.
“I am at the end of my career doing this,” Tobyne said, reinforcing the idea that replacements will soon be needed to keep the industry viable and productive.
Offered as a three credit-hour course, the class consisted of a one-credit lecture portion with a two-credit lab component. The lecture portion of the class was held at Dodge City Community College; the lab component was held at Blattner Feedyard in Cimarron, Kan.
During the first couple of weeks of the class, students were immersed in handling safety and protocol in the lecture portion of the class. Students also watched videos of cattle behavior made by Tobyne of cattle he had previously worked in a feedlot setting.
“I really stress the safety part of this,” Tobyne said about the first few weeks of the class. “I almost bored the kids to death with the safety stuff.”
After the students had been thoroughly briefed on cattle-handling safety, Tobyne led them through the experiential portion of the class. Students were outfitted with portable cameras while they handled cattle in the pens. The footage was then used in the lecture portion of the class to reinforce the best-handling practices employed by the students.
“The first class kind of balked at me about wearing a camera,” Tobyne said. “Once they put it on, they got it.”
According to Tobyne, using the cameras to record cattle behavior while students handle the cattle and then watching the footage to understand the proper, and sometimes improper, ways to handle the cattle provides an unparalleled learning experience.
While participating in the course, students do everything that normally occurs at a commercial feedlot, including processing cattle and diagnosis and treatment of medical problems.
“When they come out of that, they could go to work at a feedyard,” Tobyne said about students who took the class.
During the planning stages of the course, Tobyne contacted Temple Grandin, who is world-renowned for her expertise in cattle handling. Tobyne explained to Grandin his plan for the course, and she expressed excitement at the idea of the class, according to Tobyne.
“She gave me some good information,” Tobyne said about Grandin’s advice for course development.
Tobyne mentioned that Grandin had wanted to visit the course to provide her endorsement of it, but time and scheduling had not allowed her to do so.
Fortunately, Grandin is coming to Dodge City, Kan., July 23 to 24 to conduct two different seminars at the Magouirk Conference Center. The Cattlemen’s Workshop, the first of the two seminars, will be held on July 23 at 11:30 a.m.; registration for the workshop will begin at 11 a.m., and the fee for the event is $30. The Autism Workshop will be held on July 24 at 8:30 a.m.; registration beings at 7:30 a.m., and the fee for the event is $35 for parents and $50 for professionals.
Dodge City Community College plans to offer the course again during the fall semester of 2013. But for the course to continue to be successful, Tobyne and the college see the necessity for a new cattle-handling facility.
Dodge City Community College is currently planning a new agriculture teaching complex at the Western State Bank Expo Center south of Dodge City, Kan. Grandin’s visit will help raise awareness for this new teaching complex and for the continued training of human capital for the feedlot industry through the Low Stress Cattle Safety course.