From the Windy City to Corn Fields

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Finding my Purpose

As you can probably tell from the title I am originally from Chicago, Illinois. I spent the early years of my life in Austin, Chicago, but due to the increase in violence within my community, my parents decided to move my two brothers and I to a suburb called Oak Park- a place that I’ve grown to love and proudly call home. The change in environment helped guide me to my passions and this was where I discovered what I wanted to do for the rest of my life—help animals. As a young boy, I loved all types of animals. Not having a pet, like many other people I knew, didn’t seem to stop me in the least bit from interacting with one every chance got. I remember many occasions where I would bring home stray or lost animals, adopting them as my own (my mom would look at me crazily while she dialed the numbers on the dogs’ tags). A specific moment that helped me discover my passion for helping animals was on my way home from elementary school. As I got off the bus, there was Great Dane just sitting there by itself. Instinctively, the first thing I did was approach the dog to pet it. Time must have slipped from me because before I knew it, I had been sitting there for hours trying to keep the dog company and safe. Eventually, a man approached us and began to praise me for finding his lost dog. At first, I was disappointed because, as far as I was concerned, the Great Dane had become mine through those couple hours… but in the end, I did cave and returned the dog to his rightful owner. Even as a young boy, I felt the need to sit with the lost dog and help him in any way I could. This experience made me realize not only that I couldn’t resist a cute dog, but that I’ve always had an instinct to help animals, therefore my goal was to make it my purpose in life.

 

My Experience at WIU

Some of the few reasons that drew me to Western Illinois University was that I knew people who previously went to school here and that I wanted to go somewhere further away from home but close enough so that I could still visit frequently. To be honest, I  had no intention of pursuing agriculture here at W.I.U. and was quite unaware that Pre-Veterinary Science was under the umbrella of the Agriculture program. Upon finding that out, I assumed the next four years here a WIU weren’t going to be fun because I had no background in agriculture, nor did it even appeal to me. I imagined that because of my lack of experience in agriculture, I was going to be an outsider… Man was I wrong. The exact opposite ended up happening; everyone, from the teachers like Professor Hoge and Professor Bernards, to the students made me feel very welcomed and all my worries seemed to have been for nothing. To my surprise, I even looked forward to class at the farm because of the hands-on learning it gave me. Never in my life did I think I would be herding cattle but I did it here at Western. agriculture has provided me with a level of experience that I don’t think would have been provided elsewhere. This program has not only taught me more about animals, but has opened my mind to new things as well as allow me to have some of the best experiences of my life.

 

What I plan to Take Away From This

Being introduced to agriculture has really helped in my veterinary studies. The introduction to livestock really helped me deal with animals outside of the norm. I’ve also gotten to meet people who love what they are learning, which is something that I admire. I always hear people say, “I went to college for 4 years and I learned nothing”, but that’s not something I believe to be true for me. Everything that I’ve learned in class I plan on continuing to apply- not only when I go to veterinarian school, but even as I start to treat animals as a practicing vet. Even though my journey here has been totally unexpected, I believe I ended up in the perfect place in pursuit of my career— something I’ll never take for granted.

 

Background

My name is Markus Allen and I am a student at Western Illinois University studying Pre-Veterinary science as my major and Chemistry as my minor. Thanks for taking the time to read my Blog. (By the way that is me holding the piglet)

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I Wasn’t Raised On A Farm But. . .

I wasn’t raised on a farm, but that hasn’t stopped me from achieving knowledge in the agriculture industry.

You see, I was raised in Monmouth, IL. A city that is made up of approximately 10,000 people. Although it’s surrounded by corn and soybean fields, I was completely oblivious to agriculture when I was growing up. Looking back at how ignorant I was to the agriculture industry as a whole truly opened my eyes.

My first experience with this great industry, was when I was introduced to the world of showing livestock. Although I had a late start in the game, beginning at age 14, it never hindered my experiences or successes. I quickly caught on to feed rations, animal handling, show etiquette, and the whole nine yards. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, I was challenged to compete in showmanship. For most, this wasn’t scary. They’ve been showing their whole life, why would this be a hard task? Just like anything else, I dove in head first and told myself ‘the worst thing that could happen is I get last .. right?
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WRONG! Within 5 minutes in the show ring, the judge began asking us questions. I’m sure you can picture the look on my face.. Priceless. After waiting the longest 3 minutes of my life, the judge finally approached me. He asked a simple question, but I always seem to over think things and make them worse than they actually are. I paused for a minute and began to digest the question, “if you had to choose one issue the Boer Goat industry is facing, what would it be?” A million things came to mind, but only one thing came out of my mouth. “Communication.” It hit me in that moment that the biggest challenge the livestock industry is facing is communication. Not just in the goat industry, not just cattle or swine. As a whole, communication is lacking and it could be the solution  to so much.

Once I had ‘mastered’ the show ring, I moved on to other challenges. The summer was coming to a close and my Sophomore year of high school was about to start. We were on our way home from a livestock show when Chris and Linda (my mentors in the livestock industry) talked to me about joining FFA. I wasn’t quite sure what FFA entailed or where I would fit in.. but Linda isn’t the type to take “no” as an answer. Before I knew it, I was shaking the hand of the agriculture educator and FFA advisor of Monmouth-Roseville’s chapter. I introduced myself to Mr. Kilburn, and explained that I had a new found passion in agriculture and I loved to talk (surprise, right?). He told me he’d find a place for me and he couldn’t wait to see me in class. Little did I know that hand shake would open so many doors for me.

Within the first few weeks of class, we had learned about record books. I was starting to question what in the heck Chris and Linda signed me up for. Just when I was questioning if I truly belonged, I signed up for my first public speaking contest. Naturally, I chose the topic of Animal Welfare. This was the largest misconception I knew of, and I was so passionate about it I knew I wouldn’t have any issues talking their ears off. I left that contest feeling empowered and confident, and all I knew was I wouldn’t find these opportunities anywhere else. I began enrolling in every contest our chapter participated in. Public speaking, parliamentary procedure, livestock judging etc. I was taking in every little bit of knowledge, and the more I learned the more I realized this industry wasn’t as corrupt or portrayed as everybody makes it out to be.

Hard work, knowledge, and motivation paid off and I eventually received my State FFA Degree and my American FFA Degree.

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Just as everything else had successfully fallen into place, I decided to choose Western Illinois University. Being as I found a strong passion for agriculture, and I knew the importance of communicating knowledge, I felt it was only right to study Agriculture Education. Most find it rather ironic and unique that somebody without an agriculture background would be intrigued to teach agriculture someday. However, I know it was what I was born to do and I wouldn’t be guided on this journey it I wasn’t meant for it.

I knew the consumer side, and I now came to educate myself on the production side of things. You would be amazed how much easier it is for me to communicate to consumers and those who have a lack of knowledge in agriculture. I came from that side of the fence, and I understand their concerns. I know I am apart of a large solution to the misconceptions, and Western has helped me notice that.

Within my studies, I have learned how to communicate with all sorts of consumers. I now know that knowledge and experience is key, and whether we have either of those or not, we are all still human at the end of the day. We all have different beliefs, passions, and motivation. If we didn’t, the world would be bland and we’d never learn anything new or gain new opportunities. The agriculture industry is very diverse, which makes sense, because the world is composed of agriculture wether you like to admit it or not.

Farmers are open to communicating if you’re open to listen. More often than not, the knowledge and answers you’ve been pondering have been in front of you the whole time. It’s all up to you to gain the correct knowledge, and you would be amazed where it will take you. The agriculture industry is filled with endless possibilities, and I am living proof of that. You don’t have to be raised on a farm to understand the practices and measures being taken every day by farmers and livestock caretakers. At the end of the day, we all want to live in a safe and efficient environment.

Just don’t be afraid to communicate. You never know what you’ll learn.

 

 

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My name is Morgan Lemley and I am a junior at Western Illinois University from Monmouth, IL. I am studying Agriculture Education, and I look forward to inspiring young minds and educating them on the field of agriculture. I hope you enjoyed my blog!

Work, School, Agriculture: Goal Driven.

So many students work during the year while taking a full schedule of classes and trying to achieve their goals. Why would I be any different? My name is Kassidy Quinn and I am a Junior at Western Illinois University. I am studying Agriculture Science with a minor in Animal Science. I’m still not 100% sure what direction I want to go once I graduate, but my options are apply and attend the University of Illinois to study Meat Science or to get a job as a Veterinary Technician at a vets office in Illinois or in Tennessee.

Meat science and a veterinary technician are two very opposite things, but two very needed positions at the same time. Currently, I am employed at Monmouth Small Animal Hospital. I have been working there since the beginning of 2014. I started out just being a kennel assistant and worked my way up to working as a vet tech assistant, receptionist, kennel assistant and janitor. I work as early as 4:30 some mornings and will work to as late at 11:30 some nights. Yep, you read that right! Some nights I don’t leave until 11:30 pm and still have to go home and work on homework. I work a full 40 hour week while going to school taking 20 credit hours.  It can get very stressful some days, but I have found a balance and work my way through it. My goal within my employment is to acquire a important knowledge to help ensure the health of companion animals, while also attending school to learn about livestock species and broaden that knowledge.

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Senior photo taken by Shyvel’s. Monmouth, Illinois.

I also mentioned Meat Science as a goal or career option. Many people don’t realize that meat science exists or that people go to grad school for meat science. I started out my college career at the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign. While there, we had to take a meat science class for my animal science requirement. The meat science class started out with our professor giving us three different types of hot dogs to eat and we had to decide which hot dog tasted better and why. It was quite intriguing. After we did our taste test, we walked through the locker on campus and discussed the different cuts and grades of meat and I just found it so interesting. That is where my love for meat science came from.

Now, you may be wondering how this all ties into my studies at Western. Well, my life completely changed when I started at Western. I had always known I wanted to have a career in agriculture in some way. I grew up going to both grandparents’ houses and completing chores with my cousins. My grandparents had pigs and field crops. I always preferred to be out on the farm where life was stress-free. Ever since I was little and out on the farm, I always had a love for broadening my knowledge on field crops and the family’s hog operation.

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Family Photo taken my family member. November 2016.

I remember getting up early some mornings to help my grandpa and uncle out at the farrowing house. Besides hogs, there was always a dog wherever I went. Between livestock and companion animals, I knew I had to incorporate that into my career. Like mentioned before, my only issue with college is that I don’t know which direction I should go for a career.  I am taking other classes such as agronomy and forestry and enjoying them, which I never thought I would. I am only a junior, my goal paths can still change and they most likely will, but my end result goals will not.  My advice to those who aren’t sure what exactly they want to do within the agriculture industry, take different agriculture science classes. There is bound to be a subject you learn about or discover that just lights a spark and who knows, maybe that is what you’ll decide you want to do as a career! Western gives you that opportunity to branch in all directions and learn so many new things.

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Image taken in farrowing house at the family farm.

Having goals is the most important thing you can do when you start college. You want to explore and find a path to follow to help you achieve that goal. Paths will fluctuate, but the goals behind them won’t. The strive for success will always be behind those goals. My grandpa always told me,  “Agriculture is ten thousand goals in itself. Find one you’re interested in and never let it out of sight.”

Thankful For Being From A Farm Family

Every day I am thankful I was born into a farming family. Being raised on a family farm with both crops and livestock has taught me not only many life lessons but has also shaped me into who I am today. I am sure many of you have read similar articles about why kids are thankful for being a farm kid but it is the truth. Being involved with the agriculture industry at a young age teaches true responsibility, discipline, hard work, how to care or tend to another living being, and to adapt to any situation. Whether the job is vaccinating cattle or hogs, putting out hay, spreading manure, or even weaning calves rain or shine you work until the job is done. Growing up on our farm, I have made many memories and never experienced any dull moments.

 

In the fall, you can ride in the tractor hauling grain. When winter comes, we are busy thawing out waters and bedding down the barns. After spring finally arrives, we

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Picture taken by Susan Creasey

are back in the field to plant the crops and begin to halter break calves for summer shows. Summer leads to endless time in the barn working and preparing our show heifers or time on the road heading  to cattle shows. My mother says, “The long road trips to Jr. Nationals are her favorite memories.”  Season after season, day in and day out, there is never a dull moment on the farm.

 

 

I have many fond memories that I have made while growing up on the farm and if you are a farm kid you can probably relate. You are always up before the sun and not back in the house after sun sets. The endless hours spent in the barn with your

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Picture taken by Payton Creasey

family turns into bonding time and teaches the true meaning of family.  My father said, “Time spent in the show barn with my daughters working on heifers is my favorite time spent.” In the winter when you get your work done and it’s time for fun, bring out the 4-wheeler to pull the sled on the snow. You have your “good” clothes and your chore clothes and boots. Growing up on a farm you learn to drive tractors, 4-wheelers, and trucks at a young age. You will have the tough call of do you chore before you go out to dinner or do it when you return. You learn where your food truly comes from. You learn to be tough. There is no crying. Get up, rub some dirt on it and keep moving to get the job done. Growing up as a farm kid I have learned family comes first, work until you get the job gets done, when working with livestock you are on their time, and lastly always thank a farmer. Even after all this I wouldn’t want to grow up anywhere else.

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Professional head shot by: Sarah Twidwell

 

Hi everyone, I am Payton Creasey. I will be graduating in May with a degree in Agricultural Business and a minor in Animal Science. I was born and raised in Macomb while following in the parents food steps by attending Western Illinois University. I come from a family that has crops and livestock. My past summers I have interned with Syngenta, a corn and soybean company, and also with Dearwester Feed and Grain Services. My passion is agriculture and I plan to one day pursue a career in this field.

Rotational Grazing

 

More than a quarter of agricultural ground in the midwest is some kind of pasture. About 80% of these pastures are not properly taken care of. Because of that they have issues with uneven fertility, erosion, and weeds. One of the most common reasons for poor pasture health is being continuously grazed throughout the season. Continuous grazing results in very low pasture yields and makes it impossible for it to fully recover. Pasture ground needs to be managed in a way that improves efficiency and productivity. Rotational grazing will dramatically improve pasture quality.Summer_grazing_landscape_LG

What exactly is rotational grazing? Rotational grazing is when pasture is split into sections. This way livestock can graze a section at a time, so the other sections can regrow and recover. Then when that section is grazed down, livestock is moved to the next section, which is fully grown up. For this cycle to work well, rotations must be timed with the forage growth. A common problem with this is that some livestock producers rotate based on a schedule instead of the growth stage of the pasture. When done correctly, rotational grazing can improve an operation’s efficiency in a number of ways. When my grandpa had cattle he would always rotate them, and so does the farm I work for now.

Some of the positive impacts of rotational grazing include increased production and yields, time saving, environmental benefits, animal health and welfare, and obviously increased pasture productivity. The midwest has a lot of farmers using rotational grazing right now. A Wisconsin survey found that in the 1990s there were almost no farmers using this. Now over half of beef and dairy operations are using this management system. However rotational grazing is not just for cattle, it can be used with sheep, horses, goats, and chickens. This management practice benefits the farmer, animals, and the land. It also allows the farmer to profit from the land. Grazing systems have become much more common as people begin to see the improvements it brings.

 

Kevin McCutchan. Aledo, Illinois. Senior at Western Illinois University.

Applying to Veterinary School 101

So you want to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine?

Before you answer that question, understand that you have to be completely comfortable with blood, feces, and all other bodily fluids. You also need to be prepared to go to school for at least 8 years and yes, you need to be strong enough to deal with death. Still think you want to give it a shot? Fantastic! I am here to assure you that it is possible and inform you of what steps you need to take to make it through your undergrad and hopefully onto veterinary school.

I am an aspiring veterinarian, but unfortunately I have not made it there just yet. I am a senior Agricultural Science major here at Western Illinois University and will be graduating this upcoming December. I have successfully made it through the application process for veterinary school for the fall of 2018, but I will not find out about my admission until next February-March. Thus, I am still on edge on whether I am a strong enough candidate to get in. However, I have learned what schools are looking for during my time of meeting those requirements. Now I want to pass what I know onto others.

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Courtesy of Alexis Kole on Pinterest

First and foremost, you need a high GPA. You do not have to be a 4.0 student (though it never hurts to shoot high). Most schools admit students with an average of a 3.6 GPA. School will become a priority in order to get those high grades. Pre-Veterinary programs involve intense science courses such as microbiology, anatomy/physiology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry to name a few. Many people do not seem to understand that pre-vet students go through the same academic courses as pre-med students do. It is not going to be easy and for a good reason. Students who cannot handle the academic rigor of any pre-professional program will not make it through graduate school. That means if you really want it, you have to work for it.

At WIU, pre-veterinary students can choose to either go through the Biology department or the Agriculture department. I chose the Ag department and I am so thrilled with my decision. The Agriculture department at WIU gave me the hands on experience with animals that I always craved. I plan on working with both small and large animals when practicing veterinary medicine, but even for those who are planning on working strictly with small animals should still go through the Ag department. Before you jump into learning medicine, you must first learn the basics of the animal. For example, how they function, their behavior, and their needs. The Ag department provides this for you. You will get to learn all of these aspects and more. The Ag department also provides core courses that help your social and professional skills such as building a resume and how to act during a formal interview (which is required for veterinary school). If you cannot already tell, I am an advocate for WIU Ag because I truly believe it is going to get me to the next chapter of my life.

Veterinary schools also want undergrads that go beyond just a high GPA. Being an honors student and/or performing undergraduate research are two examples of raising academic status. Students should also get involved in other ways on campus. Schools want to see a well-rounded candidate. Get involved with clubs and organizations and additionally try and gain leadership positions. You should also get involved in your community.

Outside of school in general, experience with animals is a must. There are many ways you can gain animal experience. A job at a clinic is always great, but you can also gain experience through volunteer work at either shelters or farms. Internships are also a great experience builder. Additionally, the university provides experiences as well. The WIU farm offers student employment and there are many study abroad programs that would be beneficial. One thing you must do however, is build a relationship with at least 2 veterinarians. Schools require 3 letters of recommendations and 2 must be from different veterinarians. So keep that in mind while you gain your animal experience. I also advise to have one recommendation from a professor so your academic work can be represented as well.

Once it gets closer to application time, one other requirement is the GRE standardized exam. It is definitely something that should be prepared for. University libraries (at least WIU) offer free prep books for the GRE as well as other standardized exams. Take advantage of them! They are free! As a college student, you will become very fond of the word “free” and unfortunately applying for veterinary schools can be expensive.

So, we have now covered that you need to have a high academic status, be involved on campus and in your community, have lots of animal experience, have relationships with veterinarians, get a good score on the GRE, and still be sane. It sounds a little overwhelming, right? Of course, but it is possible! I cannot express the importance of a quality support system. These are the people (academic or at home) that will continue to push you when you feel overwhelmed and overworked. Do not think that you have to do this alone, open up to those that want to help you. That goes for any future goal you may have, not just vet school. I know I would not be where I am today without my support system, that’s a fact.

Like I already said, school will become a large part of your life. Remember to spend some time on your physical and mental health. Have fun during this time in your life (but not too much fun, schools expect you to keep your public record and social media clean).

Lastly, when it comes time to finally apply for veterinary schools through the VMCAS (Veterinary Medical College Application Service), make sure you have done your research and know the requirements for the schools you want to apply to. Start early and stay calm during the process. When everything is done and submitted, celebrate and be proud of how far you’ve come! My dad consistently says one thing to me during my years in school. He says “always remember to make yourself proud.” This has stuck with me during all the times I was drowning in school work or stressing over applications. It is something that I think everyone should remind themselves when striving for their goals.

Me and Bubba

 

Hi, Everyone! My name is Kagney Nudd and I am from Dallas City, IL. I am a senior Agricultural Science major here at WIU. As you already know from reading this blog, I plan on going on to veterinary school to get my DVM. I hope this blog was of value to you! If you have any other questions regarding requirements for veterinary school, feel free to shoot me an email at  KR-Nudd@wiu.edu. I am happy to help!

Antibiotic Free Meat

Whether you’re from a small town, or a big city, I’m sure you’re aware of the questions surrounding the use of antibiotics in livestock production.  The increasing gap between the average consumer and the farm is no doubt a driving factor in the heated debate.  Most consumers don’t genuinely understand where their food comes from, or how it is raised. To me, it is completely understandable to be questioning the practices in use today in livestock production.  After all, more than 80% of the protein in the U.S. Diet comes from meat.

Back to the beginning

Paul Ehrlich and Alexander Fleming are largely embraced as the fathers of antibiotics. Arsphenamine, introduced in 1910 under the name Salvarsan, was the first antibiotic, and the first organic cure for Syphilis.  In 1942 Bynzylpenicillin entered the market as Penicillin G, primarily used in an effort to treat wounded soldiers. By the end of the war, a team of veterinarians were able to reconstitute the antibiotic with saline solution for intramammary infusions in an effort to treat Bovine Mastitis.  Since then, antibiotics have been used in livestock to treat, prevent, and cure disease.  Penicillin is still on the World Health Organization’s list of Essential Medicines.

Antibiotics Today

In order to ensure food quality, as well as proper animal husbandry practices, antibiotics are heavily regulated throughout the world.  A major concern with their use is contaminated meat entering the food chain.  The use of “withdrawal periods” on medicine labels help combat this.  Withdrawal periods are derived from extensive research on livestock and their ability to process, utilize, and essentially remove an antibiotic within their system.  These help producers understand when it is the right time to market their livestock.  After the BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or “Mad Cow Disease”) outbreak in 2003, the USDA decided it needed a way to hold growers accountable.  Today, each animal harvested can be traced back to the farm it was raised on, where extensive vet records are kept.

More recent than premise ID numbers are VFDs. Issued January 1st, 2017, Veterinary Feed Directives limit the use of antibiotics in feed or water.

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Credit: Mississippi State University

When VFDs were initially introduced, many questions arose from within the livestock industry as a whole.  However after just a few months, they realized that it was something they had been doing all along, just with more paperwork.  In the push to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria, VFDs look to eliminate the extended use of antibiotics.  This means that their use to promote growth is no longer an option.  Although this regulation may be fairly new, producers haven’t used antibiotics at growth levels for several years. While VFDs certainly offer a few more hoops to jump through in livestock production, they also help foster a close relationship between farms and veterinarians.

 

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Credit: University of California

Still, every once in a while, an animal that has been treated with medication is sent to market before the predetermined withdrawal time is up.  Fortunately, there’s protocols in place to safeguard the general public against contaminated meat.  Meat packers test carcasses for antibiotics in ppb (parts per billion) to look for the most minute traces.  If they find antibiotics in any meat, the plant must shut down to be sterilized.  This process can take many hours or even a full work day, which costs the plant a large sum of money.  Generally speaking, the producer that caused the plant to shut down is no longer welcome to market their stock with that particular processer.  Due to the strict regulations in place by the FDA and the USDA, ALL meat in the U.S. food chain is ANTIBIOTIC FREE.

 

With the proper use of antibiotics, producers are able to keep herd health up, and in turn maximize efficiency.  Although many consumers disagree with the use of antibiotics in livestock production, there’s no harm in eating meat from an animal that was treated for an illness, as long as the proper steps for treating and harvesting that animal have been taken.  Through extensive research, with the help of premise ID numbers, VFDs, and close regulations, American consumers should rest easy knowing they’re being offered a quality, harmless product.

Bio

Hello, my name is Brenen Diesen. Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling I am a senior at Western Illinois University, where I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Ag Business, with a minor in Animal Science.  Before coming to Macomb, I attended Lake Land College in Mattoon, Il.  Ever since I could remember I have had a passion for livestock, especially pigs.  I grew up on a small grain and livestock farm in Southern Illinois where we specialized in raising show pigs.  Through my involvement in 4-H and FFA, I have been able to travel the country and meet new people every day.  I hope to be able to make it back home some day to run cows and raise show pigs, but I also look forward to the new opportunities presented every day in agriculture!