Though Ricki Fleming has offi- cially completed the requirements of the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders (CYL) program, she and her mentors, doctors Craig Dorin and Mike Jelinski, managing partners of Veterinary Agri-Health Services at Airdrie, decided from the get-go that there’s would be a lifelong mentorship. She now counts them among her network of support people, along with many others from all sectors of the beef industry whom she met during the four months of whirlwind activity as a CYL candidate, as she embarks on her career in agriculture. Fleming and her mentors believe that continuing relationships with people you connect with along the way is what makes businesses fly.
At 23, Fleming, a 2007 graduate of the Agriculture Technology-Animal Science program at Lethbridge College, is senior herdsman for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s herd at the Animal Disease Research Institute in Lethbridge. She also remains actively involved with her parents in the family’s purebred Angus and Simmental operation near Granum. She entered the CYL program with a strong background in 4-H and junior breed associations and is currently a director of the Alberta Angus Association.
Fleming has been a goal setter since her early school days. Learning how to set short-term, achievable goals, then meeting them is one way to make real progress, she says. That’s why she will always remember meeting Temple Grandin as the highlight of her international mentorship during the recent Five Nations Beef Alliance Young Ranchers program in Denver. The small group of participants had the opportunity to visit with Grandin one-on-one. “When you think about what she has accomplished for the industry and in her life, she didn’t let her autism become a stumbling block. She set goals and pushed through,” says Fleming.
As part of setting up the program with their mentors, CYL participants were required to outline five objectives and anticipated outcomes for themselves. Fleming wanted to learn specifi elements of pasture management, nutrition, animal health, biosecurity and database management. She earned the trip to Denver by meeting a sixth objective — creating a consumer-orientated video about the beef industry.
“I made my objectives really practical so I could apply the knowledge right away on the farm and at work,” she says. “That way, you can apply the objectives to measure yourself as you go along.”
She met with Dorin and Jelinski a number of times over the four months to discuss common diseases and health issues in feedlots and cow-calf operations, pen checking, drug and treatment protocols. She also used the Cowbytes program to analyze feed test data and work out the nutritional requirements for different types of rations. She learned that one of the best ways to establish biosecurity is to implement an effective vaccination program and keep accurate health records. She also plans to complete a Verified Beef Production course on her own time to gain more experience with biosecurity measures and information management. She was also introduced to experts on the HerdMaster program and a Canadian Cattle Identification Agency field representative to get a better understanding about traceability and age verification. To meet her pasture management objective, she enrolled in the Acme grazing school given by Jim Bauer in July.
Fleming is confident that she “knows her stuff” and is a believer in being a lifelong learner. One personal obstacle that this experience has helped with is having the confidence to share her knowledge and voice her opinions in public.
The CYL program provides an opportunity to meet and learn from people who have experience in the industry and other young people who are just looking to get a foot in the door. The CYL Fall Forum, Pfizer Feedlot Challenge and Alberta Beef Producers’ annual general meeting banquet were just three venues where Fleming heard about the challenges facing the industry from those who are already in a leadership role. She also received an introduction to camera grading at the Cargill plant, future access to market data with a membership in Canfax and an opportunity to practice communicating with media.
CYL is designed to bring along future leaders for the beef industry, producer associations and communities.
Fleming says she is excited to see how the CYL program will evolve and perhaps someday have the satisfaction of becoming a mentor herself.
As her mentor put it, “Her enthusiasm for learning is terrifi and reminds me of how lucky we all are to have a career in agriculture and be able to work with such people.”