How we educate the future starts with understanding the learning process of current producers
“We can no longer rely on the deficit model of education to get people on board with genetic technology,” says University of Missouri Geneticist Jared Decker.
Decker describes the deficit model as continuously pouring information onto people about a subject.
“This model of education has never been successful,” he explains. “There have always been road blocks with this model.”
Theory and technology
“Instead of simply pouring information on people, we should look to the united theory of acceptance as we approach education and attitudes about genetic technology,” says Decker.
“There are a number of factors that influence the behavior intention and use of new technology,” he continues. “Somethings that affect intention and use include gender, age, experience and voluntary nature of use.”
“Performance expectancy, effort expectancy, social influence and facilitating conditions will all determine behavior intention,” Decker notes. “Facilitating conditions will ultimately determine use behavior.”
“Institutions should be utilizing an applied curriculum,” Decker explains. “When students are sitting in the classroom, there has to be a real-world application to what they’re learning, not just academic or research applications.”
Decker and his colleagues have been working towards creating an undergraduate curriculum that encompasses real-life scenarios experienced by beef cattle producers.
“We have six main course objectives to guide the course and teach students real-life beef management skills,” says Decker.
He notes the objectives begin with evaluating beef cattle production scenarios and recommend breeding objectives based on each scenario. Students then learn to interpret EPDs, select indices and DNA tests used in the beef industry.
According to Decker, students use all available information to select herd bulls and replacement heifers. From there they will design effective crossbreeding strategies based on producer goals and production scenarios.
Decker also wants students to become well informed about new and emerging technologies in the beef cattle breeding industry and understand where to find information in the future.
To round out the curriculum, students learn how to disseminate accurate and understandable beef cattle information to consumers via social media.
“The curriculum is really aimed at real-world beef production,” says Decker. “One of the student suggestions for an assignment included evaluating a family farm and writing about how materials presented in the class could be applied to the operation.
Beef producer survey
To better understand how beef cattle producers use genetic technology and where they retrieve information about these technologies, Decker and his team surveyed producers in person and electronically. While most of the participants were from Missouri, some online responses represented other states.
“We wanted to get a better grasp on how everyday producers are using genetic technology to make decisions in the herd, if they are using the technology at all,” says Decker.
The guiding questions of the study began with determining what sources of information were valuable to cattleman when choosing breeding stock, according to Decker. They went on to ask to what extent producers utilize the information make purchasing decisions.
“If producers indicated they used genetic information to any extent, they were asked how they prioritize genetic information when making purchasing decisions,” Decker notes.
“We also wanted to know how producers learn about new breeding technologies and what roadblocks keep producers from using current genetic producers,” says Decker.
After data was collected, the producers were divided into cow/calf and seedstock groups.
As a whole, data indicate seedstock producers use genetic technology more often than their cow/calf counterparts. For example, 41.4 percent of seedstock producers use genomic tests in comparison to 15.4 percent.
“There were also large discrepancies in how these different types of producers learn about new techniques and technologies,” says Decker. “However, both groups used Extension resources and local agriculture teachers the least often in comparison to other resources.”
Decker notes this information was concerning for Extension educators, ag teachers and veterinarians as they the three were ranked surprisingly low.
“This information was a little troubling,” he says. “As Extension educators, we have to be more aggressive about having an impact.”
Callie Hanson is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.