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Cattle Nutrition: The Value of Feedback

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Katie Mason

Dr. Katie Mason
Assistant Professor and Extension Beef Cattle Nutrition Specialist
Department of Animal Science
P: 865-974-8941

It’s hard to believe that April is already here! I am 8 months into this position and I am nearly through my first semester of teaching ANSC 481: Beef Management to a group of bright and curious undergraduate students. A variety of management topics including reproduction, herd health, and marketing, just to name a few, are covered in this class. Most recently, we’ve been discussing nutrition, grazing management, and ration balancing. Between completing my Extension duties and putting together lecture content, ensuring that my classroom technology is working properly, and trying to get at least a few laughs at the cow jokes I include in my lectures, the semester has been taxing and rewarding all at the same time.

I asked for feedback from my students after the first exam. I wanted to gauge how to semester was going for them and adjust as needed. Several students very willingly offered their opinions on class content and teaching style. It’s not always easy to receive constructive criticism, but the students gave me a valuable perspective that I do not have as an instructor. They gave me things to consider as I further develop this course for future semesters. After the ration balancing lecture, where I gave students a scenario and they gathered information feed and cattle information and the balanced a ration accordingly, I had one student approach me to say, “I have been waiting all through college to learn how to balance a ration! I am so happy we learned how to do that today.” The feedback from that student meant so much to me and reminded me that I have an incredible opportunity to educate future members of the beef industry.

The same goes for the county agents and producers that I serve in my Extension role. Transitioning from a graduate student to a faculty member has its challenges. I feel so lucky to have a group of mentor specialists, agents, and cattle producers here in Tennessee who are willing to let me say, “I’m not sure,” as an answer to their question. I’m thankful when they offer advice on how I can improve my presentation style and program ideas. I’m also grateful for positive feedback that I have received where a producer said, “this ration you helped with is working out great!” or “you did a great job explaining those concepts in a way that I could understand them.”

All of that to say, I appreciate feedback on my work from students, mentors, agents, and stakeholders. I am learning as I go and always thinking of ways that I can best serve those people in my role here at UTIA. I’ll end with this quote that I have adopted as a motto for work: “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” – attributed to Mark Twain. Constructive feedback helps me to continuously improve, and when I ask for it, I truly value what you have to say.