Okemah Native Blake Wilson a Cowboy Animal Scientist Through and ThroughMon, 24 Nov 2014 14:52:23 CST
Cattle and calves account for approximately half of agricultural receipts in Oklahoma, and Okemah native Blake Wilson of the Oklahoma State University Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources is doing his part to maintain and strengthen that valuable economic asset.
A Cowboy alumnus, Wilson earned his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees with the OSU Department of Animal Science, the very unit of which he is now a part, serving Oklahoma interests as an assistant professor of ruminant nutrition.
Wilson said if he had been given the opportunity to create his own position, it would be this position as it is written: 75 percent teaching and 25 percent research.
"I teach classes that hold special appeal for me and yet I still have time to do research that will help enable our food and fiber industry meet challenges relative to feeding a world population that is expected to exceed nine billion by 2050 and strengthen local and state economies through animal nutrition and management, while also promoting sound agricultural business practices and environmental stewardship," he said.
Wilson teaches applied animal nutrition, his favorite course when he was an undergraduate student with the department. He also supports the animal management techniques course, which provides students with valuable hands-on experience with all agricultural species.
His initial research will focus on studying ruminant nutrition as it applies to the health and management of high-risk calves. Wilson also plans to do research related to the scholarship of teaching animal science: hands-on instruction as it relates to actual student performance, the effectiveness of different teaching styles and methods, and the like.
The Okemah native grew up on his family's small diversified farming operation, helping to raise commercial cattle, harvest pecans and maintain native grass meadows for hay production.
"My family has been involved in production agriculture for multiple generations," Wilson said. "I received my first cow as a gift when I was two, and slowly began building a cowherd by retaining heifer calves and exchanging steer calves with my father for additional heifers."
Wilson was active in Oklahoma 4-H and FFA as a youth, beginning to exhibit sheep when he was nine years of age and was quickly drawn to the Southdown breed. Upon discovering a local breeder, Wilson began to raise and exhibit his own flock of more than 30 registered ewes. As a result of the success of his cattle and sheep operations, he was named a finalist for the Oklahoma Northeast District Star Farmer Award as a senior in FFA.
He also proved his self-reliance and grasp of economics when after graduation from high school he dispersed his cattle and sheep operations to assist in financing his college education. But then Wilson has always been a worker.
"In high school, my brother and I operated a custom hay-hauling business," Wilson said. "In college, I served as assistant manager of Hillier Angus Ranch and subsequently worked for Ditch Witch assembling agricultural equipment."
He also took advantage of opportunities provided through DASNR and its College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. Wilson served as a research assistant at the OSU Poultry Center in addition to working at the OSU Sheep Center. He was an Animal Science Quadrathlon representative for his academic department, an officer in the Alpha Zeta Honorary Fraternity and student representative on the college's Agricultural Student Association.
"When we were interviewing Blake as a candidate for the position, he told us this was his dream job," said Clint Rusk, head of the OSU Department of Animal Science. "Blake is an outstanding young man. He has a great passion for the university and is an excellent ambassador for animal science, both in the classroom and in enhancing the ways it provides benefits to producers and society as a whole."
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