A week ago during a quick agricultural consultants meeting, a tour group from the Universidad Autonoma Chapingo was mentioned. The group would be traveling 18 hours from just northeast of Mexico City to visit the Noble Research Institute and I would have the opportunity to assist with the tour.
After studying Spanish for eight years I eagerly anticipated the opportunity to merge my language skills with my agricultural interests by spending time with the group during their visit. The days leading up to their visit I focused on jumpstarting my Spanish skills from dormancy by listening to the local Spanish radio station and framing my computer monitor with sticky notes of agricultural themed vocabulary. By the time they arrived I could remember words like el pasto (pasture) and los saltamontes (grasshoppers), and was prepared with questions about agriculture south of the border.
The group was introduced to each research division at the Noble Research Institute during the morning part of their visit. I joined the group in the afternoon as a driver to tour the Howard Cattle Company, a stocker steer operation an hour away. During the drive, we batted questions back and forth learning about each. I learned not all the students grew up with an agricultural background and their home states ranged from the south in Chiapas to the north in Durango as well as the heart of Mexico, in Mexico City.
The majority of students study agronomy or animal science and have one year remaining in their studies. Many want to pursue jobs in government, research or production just as the scholars here at Noble aspire to do.
At the Howard Cattle Company we stood in a shop, failing to escape the Oklahoma heat. Jim Howard told us the history and objectives the commercial operation run by him and his brother, Steve.
Once Jim opened for questions a reoccurring topic was importing cattle from Mexico, a regular activity of the Howard operation. The Howards use a broker to find steers that fit particular criteria then groups them together for quarantine and eventual crossing near El Paso, Texas. Once the cattle arrive, Steve commented Mexican steers usually require less medication and work, due to how the import process rejects any sick or weak animals.
Afterwards, we watched the brothers doctor a few blind steers. The process required applying penicillin to the eye and if necessary, gluing on protective eye patches made of jean swaths.
The following day we visited Noble consultant Chuck Coffey's cow-calf operation. Baldo, the group's official translator and I switched off explaining the forage system and nutritional requirements for the cows.
The group had a multitude of questions ranging from cow health and management strategies to the interactions between students and producers and how international connections underscore the interdependent globalization of agriculture. Regardless of our nationality, we are all in the agriculture industry together, working to ensure a safe and stable global food supply.