University of Idaho Ag Student Finds Passion Through Steer-A-Year Program

It took Drew Papineau a few tries to find his path in life.

First, the Moscow, Idaho, native earned an associate degree in auto mechanics from Universal Technical Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina. Then he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he earned a certificate in welding from the Lincoln Electric Welding School.

But somehow, those fields didn’t ignite a passion in Papineau.

“I knew I wanted to interact with people as well as do something hands-on,” Papineau said. “I figured with these two accomplishments I’d get the hands-on portion, but I would be missing the communication aspect.”

“I tell people every day coming to U of I was the best decision I ever made because this is where I found my passion.”Drew PapineauHe came back to Moscow in 2014 and enrolled at the University of Idaho to pursue his love of animals.

“I tell people every day coming to U of I was the best decision I ever made because this is where I found my passion,” said Papineau, who graduated in May 2018 with his bachelor’s degree in animal and veterinary science from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS).

Hands-on Experience

Papineau credits the CALS Steer-a-Year (SAY) program for much of his success and inspiration. He has been the program’s student manager of the 65-head beef cattle feedlot operation since fall 2016. U of I alumni and friends donate steer calves to the program, usually around 40 per year. Another 25 calves are provided by the U of I’s Nancy M. Cummings Research, Extension and Education Center.

Almost all other equipment needed to run a successful feedlot is donated, including most of the feed and vaccinations. The program also buys corn and barley from the U of I feed mill.

When the steers first arrive in Moscow they weigh around 700-800 pounds. The goal for the students in the SAY program is to get them to a finishing weight of 1,400-1,500 pounds within six or seven months. When the steers reach their final weight, 15-20 are sold to Vandal Brand Meats, and the remaining 40 are sent to AB Foods in Toppenish, Washington.

SAY is paid for the quality of the carcass, and donors get to choose where they want the money from their donated steer to go. Among the choices are supporting the Student Idaho Cattle Association fund, which pays for the SAY student employees and improvements on the barn; the Beef Endowment Research Fund, which pays for beef research by U of I faculty; or Vandal Athletics for student-athlete scholarships.

Seven CALS students participate in the SAY program each year. Responsibilities range from feeding the animals twice a day, administering vaccinations, providing medical care, and pen maintenance. As manager, Papineau is a firm believer in leading by example and aligning the responsibilities of employees with activities they are passionate about so that they can better succeed within the program.

“Drew really has been the backbone of the program,” said Carl Hunt, CALS professor emeritus of animal and veterinary science and SAY program supervisor. “He’s got a real active mind and mentality that constantly seeks ways of growing and being better.”

Hunt has overseen the SAY program for about 12 years. The program itself exemplifies CALS and illustrates how hands-on learning is embodied throughout the college, he said. The students learn a variety of life-long skills, such as responsibility, observation, the business aspects of feedlot production, quality of grading, cattle husbandry and how to properly communicate with donors and others within the industry.

Texas Bound

Papineau will head to Amarillo, Texas, in July to start his career with Cactus Feeders, the second largest feedlot operation in the country. He will be working as assistant manager on the Wrangler Cactus Feedlot, in Tulia, Texas, where there are 50,000-head of cattle. He will be in charge of deciding if the animals should receive more or less feed.

During his time at U of I, Papineau completed several summer internships, including a six-week program in Clovis, New Mexico, through the U.S. Dairy Education and Training Consortium, where he was first introduced to Cactus Feeders. After this initial introduction, Papineau kept in contact with the general manager of the feedlot and ended up scheduling another visit during winter break, at the end of which he was offered a full-time job.

In addition to being manager of the SAY program, Papineau is also a CALS ambassador, a peer leader in the Department of Animal and Veterinary Science, and president of the dairy club.

“I’ve had so many incredible opportunities here in CALS,” Papineau said. “If it wasn’t for the University of Idaho and the people here, I don’t know where I would be; this is truly where my life started.”

Article by Jean Parrella, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Published in May 2018