The Roundup -

MSU Beef Specialist Honored For Extension Work


September 2, 2020 | View PDF

Megan Van Emon

Bozeman - A Montana State University Extension specialist has been recognized for her outstanding community engagement efforts and youth programming by the American Society of Animal Science.

Megan Van Emon, MSU Extension beef cattle specialist, is based in Miles City. Van Emon serves the beef producers of the state by traveling to all 56 Montana counties. She meets ranchers and community members and tailors her research projects as an associate professor in the MSU College of Agriculture's Department of Animal and Range Sciences to meet their specific needs.

"If an Extension agent or a producer needs answers to any questions, I do the best I can in either answering them or finding the best person who can," said Van Emon. "Most of my research focuses on looking into those questions I receive, which varies based on the different regions of the state."

Van Emon arrived at Montana State in 2014 after receiving her doctorate from North Dakota State University and conducting postdoctoral research at Iowa State University. She focuses on questions of beef nutrition for producers in Montana. In the eastern part of the state, Van Emon said, that often takes the shape of examining the effects of water quality on cattle digestion, while in western Montana she often looks into small acreage production and maximizing production efficiency on smaller ranches.

Van Emon received the Animal Science Extension Award from the western section of the ASAS, which includes 12 western U.S. states as well as parts of western Canada and Mexico. The award was presented during the virtual section meeting last month.

"Just to be recognized as an outstanding member really meant a lot to me," Van Emon said. "Being recognized by my peers both here at the university who nominated me and the wider community of the section is really an honor."

Van Emon's programming also includes statewide engagement with Montana youth through 4-H and FFA programs. She helps lead the Montana Steer of Merit competition, an opportunity for students throughout the state to raise cattle and learn about various elements of beef quality. Students collect data on their steers each year at their county fair, such as weight, fat percentage and grade. Van Emon, in partnership with the Montana Stockgrowers Association, evaluates and grades the final animal statistics, selecting the top five highest-quality steers in the state.

"We're very lucky to partner with MSGA for that program," said Van Emon. "It helps those 4-H and FFA students learn more about the impacts of what we feed our cattle and looking at the end product, how that's promoted for the beef industry and how that impacts the beef quality of the final product."

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, like many, Van Emon has had to adjust her outreach programming and has turned to virtual means to do so. She maintains connections with Extension agents across the state through video conferencing, recorded presentations and social media. Her research continues with an ongoing project examining the impacts of high sulfate and high salt concentrations in cattle drinking water on digestion of forage crops, which are often a primary food source for beef cattle in the state.

"Megan's work is critical to all of the elements of our land-grant mission at Montana State: education, research and outreach," said Cody Stone, MSU Extension executive director. "She works incredibly hard to ensure that our producers and community members are able to get their questions answered using the most accurate and up-to-date information, even if that means conducting the research herself. We are so lucky to have her, and this honor is truly deserved."

While much of her in-person work has been put on hold since the spring, Van Emon hopes to continue her statewide travels this winter, which she says are her favorite part of her work.

"What's unique about Montana is that we have beef cattle all over the state, so the questions are changing all the time," she said. "I like the mix of everything that I get to do, meeting producers and learning about their operations. I love getting out and meeting people, learning how I can best help them."


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