Lincoln, Neb. —Selby Boerman’s drive and passion fuel her hunger for knowledge and ways that it can be applied to impact the future of the agriculture industry.
Boerman, a graduate student working on a master’s degree in animal science and a graduate research assistant for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, began learning the basic skills of ranching after moving onto a family friend’s ranch in Northern California her freshman year of high school. After falling in love with cattle, Boerman attended California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, studying animal science and rangeland resources.
To broaden her perspective of rangeland management in cattle production, Boerman moved to Nebraska in January 2020 to become a calving intern at the Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory. The Sandhills presented a very different ranching style to her. “In the Sandhills, there’s way more forage available than in California, so there’s a lot of concerns that you would have to worry about if you were ranching in California that aren’t a problem here,” observes Boerman.
It was here that Boerman decided she wanted to pursue a master’s degree in animal science with an emphasis on cow-calf production and grazing behavior, igniting a research project.
Boerman’s research project is comprised of two components: cow-calf performance and grazing behavior. She is comparing the cow-calf pairs of low milk-producing cattle and high milk-producing cattle and seeing if there are grazing behavior differences between the two groups. Each calf is fitted with GPS collars and the calves have accelerometers around their necks to assess the calf’s head movements, proximity to the cow and behavior. This is a method by which they can measure nursing and grazing behavior.
This research will allow for the selection of the most efficient animals and ultimately give producers information they can use to better match cattle with specific environments – for example the forage resources they have available.
Boerman’s impactful research has earned her the Arthur W. Sampson Fellowship Fund award. This award grants fellowships to support graduate students with a special interest in pasture and range management in the state of Nebraska. Students must have high potential for research accomplishments in their chosen thesis, degree project or dissertation topic.
This award is a great honor for Boerman to receive, as up until college, she did not have much knowledge about rangeland, or agriculture in general. She aspires to use her newfound passion to benefit agriculture. “I’m pretty excited about the research I’m about to start and eager to see what the results end up being,” said Boerman. “I have a passion for applied research that is going to benefit the beef industry.”
The move to Nebraska has been a positive experience for Boerman, as she has been able to take in the unique beauty of the Sandhills, gain newfound knowledge on large-scale production systems and make an impact with what she has learned.
“I just have a better appreciation for beef cattle production on this bigger scale and some of the challenges that come with running cattle at this level,” she said.