Reflections from the U of I

October 31, 2016 2:55 pm

Ellen Simpson, the recipient of the 2015 University of Illinois Scholarship reflects in her time in the USA.

As the 2015 recipient of Angus Australia’s University of Illinois Scholarship, it was an enormous privilege to spend six months abroad representing Australia and our beef industry.

I flew to the US in early January and spent four months studying and livestock judging.  I lived in a Sorority House and attended classes alongside 40,000 other students.

Classes included advanced genetics, ruminant reproduction and nutrition and meat science. In addition, I was spending 18 hours per week training for the judging teams.

The University of Illinois has an excellent reputation as an accomplished judging team, and I was enormously lucky to join a talented group of students.

Competitions saw me travel over 7000km to South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nebraska, Indiana and Texas. The team flew to Texas for the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and spent a week visiting cattle studs, particularly Brahmans.

Purdue University in Indiana hosted the All East Competition and the University Of Illinois won the High Point Score Overall. I was thrilled to place individually too, and in a field of 200 I placed 6th in sheep judging, 7th in cattle and 9th overall.

Lincoln, Nebraska hosted the National Meat Animal Evaluation Contest and was the final competition of the semester. It involved a marathon 4-day competition assessing the culmination of a semesters learning.

Of the 19 teams competing, we were thrilled to place fourth overall. In addition to cattle, I (very quickly!) learnt to judge pigs, sheep and goats and the carcasses of each species.

Competitions are far more thorough and comprehensive than those here in Australia, covering breeding animal evaluation, livestock judging and carcass ranking, pricing and grading.

I learnt more than I thought possible about livestock assessment, meat judging and the beef industry on a global level.

The University of Illinois is in the city of Champaign-Urbana, about 2 hours south of Chicago. It’s predominantly corn and soybean growing country and as such, cattle are all finished on grain.

I loved being based in the rural mid-west, but enjoyed it’s proximity to larger centres (and airports!).

I spent Spring Break in New York City and travelled for 8 weeks after classes finished, covering 24 beautiful states. I spent a soggy week in Texas during their worst ever floods and had a close encounter with a tornado in Maryland.

Thank you to Angus Australia for the opportunity to take part in such an enriching and incredible program – the skills, friendships and experiences I made will stay with me indefinitely.