Steer-A-Year program seeks donations for 2021-2022 academic year

Montana State University News Service
Steers in the Carrington Research Extension Center's feedlot are eating their daily ration.

BOZEMAN — Montana State University’s Steer-A-Year program is seeking donations of young cattle and feed for the 2021-22 academic year.

A student program in MSU’s College of Agriculture combining academic courses with hands-on, technical experience, Steer-A-Year exposes students to the variety of elements involved in raising cattle. Students spend the academic year feeding and managing steers, caring for them through the winter and spring, collecting data on feed efficiency and weight gain, and studying livestock marketing.

“This program is a huge benefit to our students because it allows many of them the first hands-on experience raising cattle that they’ve ever had,” said Hannah DelCurto-Wyffels, the program’s adviser and an instructor in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences. “Through Steer-A-Year, they are able to gain a well-rounded and comprehensive knowledge of the cattle industry, which helps prepare them for future careers.”

Donated steers are housed at the Bozeman Agriculture Research and Teaching Farm. After being cared for by the students through the academic year, the cattle are sold annually to MSU’s Culinary Services, where the meat is served in both on-campus dining halls, Miller and Rendezvous.

Proceeds from those sales support travel and other costs for various student teams and clubs in the College of Agriculture, as well as funding trips for students to meet with commodity groups and industry professionals, such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the Montana Stockgrowers Association and the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, allowing for additional networking and learning opportunities.

Steer-A-Year students raised 36 steers during the 2020-21 academic year, all of which were purchased by Culinary Services.

“In addition to benefitting our students, producers who donate steers to the program receive a lot of powerful information that they can use to benefit their operations,” said Carl Yeoman, head of the Department of Animal and Range Sciences. “Students caring for the cattle provide these producers regular reports on their donated animal’s growth and health, as well as detailed information about meat quality after the steers are harvested.”

Awards are given annually to the producer who donated the best initial feeder steer, the steer with the top rate of gain, the steer with the best feed efficiency and the steer that produces the best carcass.

“The relationships created through this program are invaluable,” said DelCurto-Wyffels. “It’s such a joy to see our students interacting with producers across the state and to watch them learn from each other. The generosity of our supporters is truly what makes this program possible.”

DelCurto-Wyffels said that before donation, calves should be weaned, castrated and dehorned and should weigh 500-800 pounds. The ideal pickup period for calves is the first two weeks of November.

Those interested in donating steers or feed, providing financial support or learning more about the Steer-A-Year program can contact DelCurto-Wyffels at 406-994-3752 or hannah.delcurto@montana.edu.