Think Purple. Think Agriculture. Think Western.

Since 1899 Western Illinois University has been providing a quality education for students across the Midwest. One of its signature programs is Agriculture! So why not come check us out?  ag open house 1

The date for our Annual Spring Open House is Friday April 1st from 9am-1:30pm at the University Livestock Center. There will be a host of students and faculty to meet with on the day of the event. Along with that, we will also be giving a farm tour and seeing how Western students are involved heavily within the workings of our agriculture farm.

“The hands on learning that is provided within the School of Agriculture is what makes this program unique.” ~Austin Kocher, Senior, Agriculture Business Major

Getting involved with hands on learning is just the beginning. Students in the agriculture program are also heavily involved within campus organizations outside of the walls of Knoblauch Hall (main agriculture building).

“I am here to teach you number 1, number 2 I am here to help you get a job outside of the constraints of a classroom and that starts with getting involved.” Dr. Mark Hoge, Animal Science Professor an Livestock Judging Coach

Lunch will be provided for those in attendance along with a chance to meet our academic advisor, Ms. Ember Keithley. She can answer any specific questions that you might have about coming to Western. If you would like to register for this event you can do so by going to the School of Agriculture website and registering there.

Follow this link to sign up:

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The schedule for the day is as follows:

9:00-9:45 a.m. – Registration and Student Fair

9:45- 10:00 a.m. – Welcome

10:00-10:15 a.m. – Welcome by School of Agriculture Director, Dr. Andrew Baker

10:15-10:45 a.m. – Student Panel

10:45-12:00 p.m. – Farm Tour

12:00 -1:00 p.m. – Lunch with faculty at the Multicultural Center

 1:00-1:30 p.m. – Advising, Ember Keithley

1:30p.m. – Depart for the Livestock Center

I hope that you can come join us for an exciting day of learning about Western Illinois University School of Agriculture. Any other questions please feel free to contact me at or by calling the School of Agriculture office at (309) 298-1080.

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My name is Christian Thurwanger and I am currently a junior at Western Illinois University majoring in Agriculture Education. I am involved with a multitude of clubs and organizations on campus including Agriculture Vectors, Collegiate FFA, Post-Secondary Agriculture Students, AG Ed Club, Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity, and Collegiate Farm Bureau. I am also the Student Recruiter for the School of Agriculture. So if you have any questions regarding recruitment or Western Illinois University feel free to contact me at the email above.




Pasture Management

Cell-Grazing-Hay-ValleyPasture management is becoming a crucial management process for farms these days. Here in the Midwest a lot of pasture ground is now being used for row crops. This becomes an issue for cattle producers that need pasture to be profitable raising cattle. With the shortages of pasture ground producers must be as efficient as possible with the amount of pasture they have to be profitable. Producers can maximize pasture efficiency through rotational grazing, soil testing, spreading manure, applying fertilizer, and having quality forages.

Rotational Grazing

Rotational grazing is a practice where producers have their pastures divided into different sections to maximize efficiency in pastures. When livestock are introduced to fresh sections are pasture at the right time it eliminates overgrazing and allows the sections that have already been grazed to grow back at a faster rate.

Soil Testing

Another crucial step to pasture management is soil testing. By having soil tested, producers are able to see what inputs need to be applied to maximize pasture performance. Also, by having soil tests done eliminates the guessing game and allows producers to only purchase the inputs that the soils need, which will save producers money immediately by having only the inputs they need, applied.


Spreading Manure

Spreading manure is a great way to give back to the soil. Manure is a valuable natural fertilizer for pasture production. By utilizing manure it allows producers to minimize input costs on fertilizers and maximize pasture performance. It is best to apply manure to the pastures when the forages are growing because the forages demand the most nutrients while they are growing.

Applying Fertilizer

After performing soil test producers are able to see what inputs they need to apply to their pastures. Producers are able to take the results to their local farm cooperative and they will give you the proper fertilizer blend to apply to your pasture. Applying the proper fertilizer to a pasture will maximize forage performance and health.


Quality forages

Quality forages are essential for optimum pasture performance. Producers should have a pasture with grasses and legumes. It is very important to have legumes in your pasture because they put nitrogen back into the soil and provide a nutrient rich forage. Here in the Midwest clover is the one of the most common legumes used by producers. Another important part of selecting a quality forage is making sure it produces a large amount of tonnage. By choosing quality forages it will maximize pasture production.


My name is Bryson Jibben, a senior at Western Illinois University. I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Business. I am currently involved in Ag Business club and Alpha Gamma Rho on campus. I have been for fortunate enough to grow up on a farm where my family runs a cow-calf operation consisting of around 25 cows.

Sustainable Solutions for Deer Damage to Crops

On a warm summer evening in West-Central Illinois, one could see dozens, if not a hundred deer, gorging themselves on the bounty of nutritious crops, including corn and soybeans in the fields. Depending on your particular point of view that sight may be either beautiful or incredibly frustrating. As an avid deer hunter and  someone with experience in agriculture, I understand both points of view. From the farmer’s point of view, the deer are pests that are decimating their crops, cutting into their bottom line. That’s not to say that farmers in general don’t appreciate deer and other wildlife, but when it comes to business, most farmers would support protecting against loss due to damage from deer and other wildlife, so I have come up with three sustainable ways farmers can improve their crop as well as maintaining a healthy deer population on their property. deer-browsing-row-crop

Alternative Food Sources: Many farm fields in Illinois have a strip of grass around the perimeter of the fields as a buffer between the crops and the natural habitat. What if producers used those areas to plant attractive forage for whitetail deer and other pests who would otherwise be feeding on those crops?

p1314385546Clover, chickoree, brassicas, and grasses have been proven effective as lure crops in food plots. In a study by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, it was proven that lure crops and food plots can help to reduce the depredation of field crops by deer.

Responsible Hunting: This one may seem obvious, but the word “responsible” is the kicker here. Regulated, responsible hunting of deer can be one of the most effective methods of maintaining the health of corn and soybeans, as well as the deer population. Responsible hunting means only removing excess deer that are both harmful to overall health of the deer herd and the health of the crops.  For producers who are also conscious of the health of wildlife and the natural ecosystem, taking up responsible hunting practices or allowing trusted hunters with a good reputation in the community.

Fencing: For many soybean and corn operations in Illinois, deer fences are not really viable due to their size. Also, deer can easily jump over a standard wire fence that is sufficient to hold cattle and other livestock. Deer_Fence Putting up a an 8 foot fence around a 250 acre field would be incredibly expensive, not to mention time consuming. However, a deer fence may be an option for farmers growing specialty crops that deer have a taste for such as apples or young saplings.

Both agriculture and deer management are subjects that I am passionate about. As far as I’m concerned, a practice that can improve both should be the primary option. Even those of us who are not deer hunters should be able to appreciate the environment and all of the resources that are available when it is managed well and worked with, instead of against. However, we have to remember that farming is a business and farmers have the right to make their business as profitable as they can. Knowledge of both agriculture and deer management are of utmost importance, especially in Illinois where both are such a huge part of what makes the state great.


My name is Braden Wherley and I am a senior Ag Business student at WIU. I grew up in a small, farming community and agriculture has always been a part of my life. I also love the outdoors and I plan on graduating in the fall of 2016.




GMO Labeling Law Moves Forward

If you have been paying attention to the news lately you may have heard about the ongoing debate of labeling foods that contain GMOs.  On Wednesday, March 16th a bill to stop states from requiring GMO labeling failed to pass the Senate.  The bill was only a slim 12 votes away from being passed! The first mandatory GMO labeling law was presented by Vermont and is set to go into motion on July 1st of this year.  Pat Roberts is the Republican Senator that introduced the bill to block mandatory labeling.  He advocates instead for a voluntary labeling system that would be uniform across the nation.  This would prevent confusion and allow producers to opt into labeling without being strong armed by a mandatory labeling act.

Many consumers do not even realize that almost everything they put in their cart has been produced with some type of genetically modified crop.  Close to 75% of food in the super market contains some genetically modified ingredients. This is in no way a bad thing, it just goes to show that labeling all of these products would be a waste of resources.  This labeling would increase costs to companies who would in turn have to increase prices for consumers.  As stated by Chip Bowling president of the National Corn Growers Association, “Farmers are committed to creating greater transparency in the food system, but we also need Congress to set clear, commonsense guidelines that are based in science and keep food affordable for American families.”

Mandatory labeling of foods that contain GMOs is an unnecessary step in the wrong direction.  There have been over 2,000 studies done on GMOs that have all come to the conclusion that they are safe to consume.  These studies have been conducted by almost every government out there contrary to the belief that big companies, like Monsanto, are funding the research.  Labeling every genetically modified ingredient in a product may just signal to the consumer that the product is unsafe to eat.  It may come across almost as a warning label.  Most of the general public don’t fully understand what GMOs are. So many sites feed consumers misinformation about GMOs.  A prime example of this is if you simply type into Google search “GMO” the first site to pop up is the Non-GMO Project. What also comes up is a misleading picture of creating genetically modified crops as shown below.

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Some consumers views on the genetic modification process

Sadly enough this is exactly what most consumers think is happening to their foods.  They think that their food is being shot up with chemicals and whatever else the internet is telling them.  Can you really blame someone though if this is the only information they have on what they eat?  What we in the agricultural community need to do is spread the word of what is really in the food that we all eat.  We need to fight back with the facts we have at our disposal and spread the truth about the food we produce.

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Hello I’m Sam Kipling and I’m a 2012 graduate of West Prairie High School. Currently I am in my third year at Western Illinois University.  I will graduate in December of 2016 with my bachelors degree in Ag Business.

Hitting the Jackpot at the Illinois Beef Expo

Illinois Beef Expo

The Illinois Beef Expo is one of the most popular first stops of the jackpot season for Illinois cattleman. The Illinois Beef Expo started back in 1988 and has been held at the same place, Illinois State Fairgrounds, every year since, besides in 2008. This show is popular to exhibitors for many reasons. There is not only a show but also multiple different sales that happen throughout the week/weekend. Illinois Beef Expo hosts the Illinois Performance Tested Bull Sale, along with the Angus, Hereford, Shorthorn, and Simmental sales. There is also a trade show in the basement of the show arena that hosts many different vendors, which also attracts a lot of people to the fairgrounds.

Cattle Shows Are All About Family

When I say that cattle shows are all about family, I mean that in two different ways. First of all, this is one of the main shows where my whole family can be at. We started loading the cattle trailer early Friday morning, in order to be at the show by 7:00 a.m. to help Four Corner Farms on their Angus for the futurity show. Not only do I mean these shows are only about family because my family works together every day to get the job done, but I also mean that everyone that we surround ourselves with become family as well. Family is not just by blood but also who is there for you every step of the way, and you really find of who your “cattle family” is, on show days.Lulu and i

Show Days

Cattle show days, along with any other form of livestock, is very hectic. Show mornings start off before the sun comes up, the cattle are brought in from tie outs, washed, hair blown out and worked, and then they are fed.  Once they are done eating, the show is usually about to start and each calf has to be fit.  When they are getting fit, that means they are getting their hair glued up, to make them look like perfection before they go into the show ring.

The heifer show, at the Illinois Beef Expo, started on Saturday, February 27, 2016.  On Saturday, the commercial heifers, Charolais, Chianina, Limousin, Maines, and Red Angus heifers all show.  The heifer show then splits the ring Sunday, February 28, 2016 with the steer show.  The bigger breeds for heifers showed on Sunday; Angus, Simmental, Shorthorn, Herefords and more. Once each breed had a selected champion, there is a Grand Champion Drive, where the judge picked the top five heifers from the entire show.  The overall selection of the show went, Grand Champion Heifer – Angus, Reserve –   Mainetainer, third overall – High % Simmental, fourth overall – Commercial, and fifth overall – Low % Simmental.

At the same time that the breeding heifer show was going, the steer show was going on, in the ring beside them.  The steer show is only on Sunday, because there are fewer numbers that participate in the steer show, but it is equally as competitive. At the end of the show, they also selected a top five overall.  The results for the steer show were as follows, Grand Champion Steer – crossbred, Reserve – maine, Third overall – crossbred, Fourth overall – maine, and Fifth overall – Simmental.

This years Illinois Beef Expo was a very competitive year, with around 750 animals checked-in to show.  At the end of the show I was talking to a family friend of ours, that is also involved in the cattle industry and I believe that he said it best; “We did not come here expecting to win the show, we came here to be competitive and have fun, and I believe that we hit the jackpot on that.”  The cattle industry is not just about winning, but having fun, enjoying the time spent with the “cattle family.”  Congratulations to all who won, and good luck to everyone going and competing in more jackpot shows the rest of the winter.

My name is Allison Hickey, I am a junior aclose upt Western Illinois University.  I am working towards my bachelors degree in AgriBusiness.  On campus, I am actively involved the Hoof n’ Horn club.  I graduated from Lincoln Land Community College, where I received my associates degree in Applied Sciences, with an emphasis in Agriculture. I was born and raised on a farm, where we raise, sell, and show beef cattle and farm corn and soybeans.

It’s About Passion, Not Background

From the age of five to the age of twenty-one I have been obsessed with horses and forBrookeI over ten years now they have been a big part of my life. I was that little girl always asking for a pony at Christmas and on birthdays but always disappointed when I didn’t see him under the tree or walking up my driveway. My journey to pursuing a degree in agriculture brought lots of questions and puzzled looks because I did not grow up on a farm. I grew up
in Bloomington, IL on the edge of town where I lived in nice little suburb with my family. I attended Bloomington High School and participated in varsity sports. I wasn’t the usual “ag kid” and you would have never known that I was President of my 4H club. Actually, most of my fellow classmates were not in 4H. Future Farmers of America (FFA) was not provided at my high school so I never got to experience the events that came with membership in that organization. I went to a high school that knew very little about agriculture, but that didn’t stop me from pursuing my passion.

I may not have worked on a big farm or ridden in a combine, but agriculture is much bigger than that typical image. The part that I had the privilege of experiencing was the horse industry at LoneLone Ridge Farm Ridge Farm. It was there I met two women who inspired me to pursue a degree in agricultural science. Six years ago I met Jeanie Andrews and Brooke Wright. Jeanie owns the 43 acre farm that houses 25 horses with stall and pasture boarding and, Brooke is one of the trainers at the farm. At the time I started riding and working there, I had no idea the impact they would have on my life. Both have degrees in agriculture that they pursued after high school and neither grew up on a farm. I saw two strong women who didn’t let people tell them they couldn’t do this or that because they did not have a traditional agriculture background.

These two women molded me into the woman I am today by teaching me all they knew about the industry they claimed as their passion. I was educated in nutrition, management, training, and instructor skills. They gave me the chance to become the president of the Wild Oats 4H club located at Lone Ridge and put me in situations which forced me to assume leadership roles. I learned to never back down, to always work hard and to listen to instructions so I could do things right the first time. I saw Jeanie, a strong woman of agriculture, own and manage her farm by herself while taking care of 25 horses and all their needs. I saw Brooke guide/mentor a group of kids at fair, while still making sure to make it fun and memorable. These women pushed us to learn and to be leaders in agriculture and to be proud of our own personal work. These two women exemplified the strong, educated women with a passion for agriculture that I wanted to become.

1433422552824I continue to get the looks and the questions regarding why I am pursuing a degree in agriculture when I have no farm background. I still receive the puzzled looks when I share I didn’t have the chance to be part of FFA.  I am pursing a degree in agriculture because I want to make a difference in another person’s life just like Jeanie and Brooke did for me. I want to do it for kids who don’t have an agriculture background and show them all this industry has to offer. I want to experience all that I can in this industry and then be able to educate people on my passion. The classes I have taken at WIU have equipped me for realizing that dream. I am learning more in this department than I ever thought was possible. I want others to know that it is not where you come from that dictates whether or not you will succeed in pursuing a degree in agriculture. Rather, it is whether you are ready to take the challenge and pursue your passion.


1433422583796My name is Laura Verplaetse and I am currently a student at Western Illinois University. I am studying agricultural science with a minor in animal science. I am also a member of the Chi Omega Fraternity of the Gamma Kappa chapter here on campus. If you would like to contact me for further questions or discussion email me at

What is a “Farmer”?

When you google the definition of a farmer it reads “a person who owns or manages a farm” simple, right?

It is not that simple and farmers are more skilled than they are given credit for. Farming is a profession unlike any other. The average work day starts at 8 or 9 a.m. A farmer begins at 5 a.m. or before. A farmer’s success is heavily based on Mother Nature’s temperament all year long. Can you replant a tomato plant? Sure. Can you replant 160 acres of corn? Not usually. If something goes wrong such as, crop failure or too much rain, he has to wait until the next growing season to plant the next crop.

A farmer is the 24/7, on call, care taker for his livestock, the mechanic for his tractors, the agronomist for his crop, the commodity broker and financial advisor for his farm, and the weatherman. Sure a farmer can hire people to manage each of these positions but, as with everything else it comes at a price.

Care Taker – 365 days a year livestock need food, water, and care from a farmer. Livestock don’t have scheduled births like humans can. When it is calving season farmers are on call 24 hours a day. The farmer has to make sure his cow has a successful live birth. Dairy farmers are the early risers, up before the rooster crows to milk their cows. We take for granted what farmers do and how hard they work to provide safe and healthy food for us.

IMG_2060Mechanic – From turning wrenches to setting up GPS and auto-steer, farmers today have to be kept current on basic mechanics as well as precision Ag technology. When rain is in the forecast during planting or harvest break downs and down time are not an option. If there is a break down, a farmer uses his wrenching ability. Their livelihood depends on their tractors and equipment working as they should.

Agronomist – Once the crop has been planted farmers just head to Florida for a few months right? Actually no, they are out scouting their fields looking for the inevitable crop damage caused by insects, weeds, and diseases. While searching for these pests, they are also surveying what their crop may need throughout the growing season. When an issue is found three factors effect decision making: can this problem be safely and effectively controlled, will the result of control be economically advantageous, and is there sufficient time to implement agronomic remedies.

Commodity Broker and Financial Advisor – After harvest a farmer has grain to sell. The two basic factors farmers consider when effectively marketing their commodities are the commodity’s price and timely sale. At the end of the season a farmer sits down and crunches numbers. He/she has worked hard all year, but now it is time to evaluate how much money they made. Based off of these numbers they will make adjustments as needed and prepare for next year’s farming season.IMG_3384

Weatherman and Biological Factor– A farmer’s livelihood depends on what Mother Nature has in store for that season. A farmer only gets 40-50 tries to perfect the art of farming. Farmers typically can only grow one of the same crop per year. With this in mind farmers have to be proactive with their decision making and stay up to date on all agronomic farming practices.

Farmers are not just people who own or manage a farm.  As a farmer works through his life long career he will take care of the land and livestock as they have taken care of him. Farmers wear many hats and work hard everyday to keep their families fed as well as the rest of the world. Paul Harvey said it best with, “So God made a farmer”. I highly encourage you to listen. Paul Harvey – So God Made A Farmer


Hello I’m Austin Smith. I graduated from Macomb High School. I attended Spoon River College in Macomb for two years then transferred to Western Illinois University. I am a senior Ag Business major with an emphasis in Agronomy graduating May 2016.