CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – The four members of the Austin Peay State University Beef Cattle Show Team woke up around 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 9 and went to work grooming a heifer in the livestock pen. Since September, they’d spent most of their free time at the APSU Farm and Environmental Education Center, making sure the animal was in tip-top shape, and in a few hours, they hoped all their hard work would pay off.
“We didn’t travel eight hours to not compete,” Matt Barnett, an APSU junior, said.
The team – made up of Barnett and APSU students Lucas Haley and Jackson Price and community volunteer Tyler Davis – was in Jackson, Miss., that morning for the Dixie National Livestock show, and over the next five hours, the students continued to prep the young cow for the competition.
“We’d put in a lot of hard work,” Haley, an APSU junior, said. “We started this team with the intention to win, be successful, get our name out there and get our school’s name out there.”
That afternoon, they more than achieved that goal when the team’s heifer was named Senior Calf Champion. A picture of the winning heifer and the APSU Beef Cattle Show Team will appear in several national cattle magazines in the next few months, bringing notoriety to the University’s Department of Agriculture and to the hard-working students.
“This group has spent 10 to 15 hours a week, sometimes working in the mud, the cold, the freezing rain and the snow,” Dr. Rod Mills, Austin Peay State University assistant professor of agriculture and the team’s advisor, said. “They’ve been working with this heifer since September of last year. The judge really, really liked her. He said from the shoulder back, she was superior to the rest of them.”
The University organized the team about a year ago, thanks to the generous support of Mark and Betty Barnett, co-owners of the Kentucky-Tennessee Livestock Market. The couple decided to sponsor the student team as a way of promoting the APSU Department of Agriculture.
“We came up with a strategic plan to get Austin Peay’s name out there,” Betty said. “We thought the beef show team would be the best way to get their name in the surrounding communities. They go to the different community fairs. They have their sign up for Austin Peay. But winning at the Dixie Nationals, we’re very proud.”
Dr. Don Sudbrink, chair of department, also credited Mills and APSU President Tim Hall with the team’s success.
“Rod has really done so much in such a short period of time,” he said. “And President Hall has made so many things possible here on this campus, especially for our agriculture program, and we are forever indebted to him for all his assistance.”
Hall has labeled the department one of the University’s “hot spots.” It is the fastest growing college department of agriculture in Tennessee, with student enrollment in that program increasing by 75 percent in the last five years. The department now has four full-time faculty members, along with an agriculture advisory committee, made up of local leaders, to help maintain its growth and service to the community.
For more information on the department or the Beef Show Team, call 221-7272.