More than 1,400 miles separate Petaluma, Calif., from Curtis, Neb. A quick search on Google Maps shows that’s a drive of more than 21 hours. But, that’s the exact trip that Remy Mansour made to start his secondary education. He’s completed his two-year Animal Science, about to graduate from the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture.
So, what brings a California kid all the way out to a place he’s never heard of?
Evidently, all it takes is word of mouth.
“My mom works for the sheriff’s department back home,” he said. “Her supervisor is the assistant sheriff, and his daughter graduated NCTA a few years ago. That’s how we first heard about it. We took a trip out to see the school and I just went for it.
“I wanted to see how people live in different parts of the country. I wanted to learn about the ag industry and how it’s different from back home. I’ve been in FFA and 4-H my entire life, showing both cattle and sheep.”
His family used to raise club lambs and sell them to FFA and 4-H members. They recently started a different venture, running a sheep dairy. They sell their milk to local cheese makers. Mansour said it’s a rapidly growing industry in his part of California. Petaluma sits near the coast, about an hour north of the San Francisco metro area.
Mansour said home is right in the heart of dairy cattle country.
“To be honest, I didn’t want to make the trip all the way to Nebraska for school,” he said. “However, looking back, it was probably the best decision of my life. I never would have been able to travel to all the states I’ve visited thanks to livestock judging. It’s taught me a lot. My mom gave me a lot of encouragement and it turned out to be the best decision I could have made.”
Mansour had a lot to learn when it came to livestock judging. He knew how to look at cattle and buy them for showing. He’s never looked into hog production and had no idea what a “set of reasons” was.
Douglas Smith is the livestock judging team coach. He said Mansour, as well as all students going into livestock judging, have a lot to learn. The biggest challenge is getting to know all the traits they should be looking for in each animal.
“It’s not just one particular trait that you’re focusing on,” Smith said. “It’s a balancing of a lot of different traits. There are several tools that the team can add to their components, including performance data, to help them make the best choice.
“Their freshman year is always about getting experience. The sophomore year is all about fine-tuning those skills and get them focused on being competitive across the nation.”
Mansour said the traveling that comes from being on the livestock judging team is a great experience.
“Before I came out to Nebraska, I had maybe been to a couple states, Nebraska and Iowa,” he said. “I’ve now been to states like Colorado, Texas, South Dakota, and Oklahoma. Our most recent trip was out to Kentucky. I’ve also been to places like Tennessee, Ohio and Illinois.”
Mansour is an Animal Science major at NCTA. The end goal of his education is to possibly start breeding show cattle or even get into raising commercial cattle. One reason for making the trip to Nebraska is an education at a much lower cost than he’d find in California. He has paid $150 every month for rent in Nebraska, while California rent for a comparable building would be approximately $1,000. While the cost was cheaper, there was quite a bit of culture shock.
“It’s a small school in a small town,” he said. “I come from a county that’s 500,000 people, with my hometown population at 75,000. It’s was a bit of a shock, at first. I really don’t miss the big city. I think college has changed me a little bit. I enjoy the slower pace of life. Everyone is super nice here. It’s great to be able to walk down the sidewalk and have people recognize you.”
He graduated from NCTA in early May. While his plans aren’t certain, he’s seriously considering attending Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, where he’ll continue his Animal Science studies.
Chad Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.