Dick Hagen

ST. PAUL — “I’m super passionate about the beef industry. I love talking to the public, telling them the incredible story of agriculture.” Speaking is Haley Mouser, a 16-year old high school sophomore at Tenstrike, Minn., way up there about 20 miles northeast of Bemidji in Beltrami County. Yes, this is Minnesota lake country, but also a few pockets of beef production too. And Mouser is the beef spokesperson I had the pleasure of talking with at the Minnesota Beef Expo Oct 18.

So my opening question to this delightful young lady was: “How did you get involved in the beef industry?” 

“About seven years back, my parents got their first four Herefords for our first-generation farm. The next year my older brother (two years older) got his first show heifer. Two years later I got mine and I’ve been hooked ever since,” smiled Mouser. “The more I’ve learned about the beef business, the more my passion has kept growing. I love the industry. I now have five cows and three heifers.”

So this next logical question: “When you get older and decide to get married, then what happens to these wonderful Hereford animals?” Bingo. She quickly responded, “Wherever I go, they go.”

 So what’s ahead? “I love public presentations and talking about agriculture — particularly the beef industry. If that takes me into ag communications, or ag lobbying, I’m not quite sure at this stage.”

Are meatless meats going to be around forever because they are consumer driven? After just a brief hesitation, Mouser answered, “Yes, they might be around forever, but I do not believe they will have a huge impact on the beef industry because when you get down to the basics, no one can replicate true beef! Last night at the exhibitor/sponsor dinner, Dr. Ryan Cox, University of Minnesota, talked about two imitations: the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Meat Burger plus real beef burgers. Then about 30 of us volunteered to be blindfolded and each got to taste bite each of the three burgers. There was no comparison. I could easily tell the real meat burger. The texture and the flavor of the real burger was just perfect.”

Might this delightful young country gal become a college professor? “Yes, an intriguing thought, but still far down the road,” Mouser admitted. “I’ve visited Kansas State, Colorado State and Nebraska. Those are my top three at this stage. I’ve met several people within the Hereford industry. This past July I participated in the ‘Faces of Leadership’ tour in Lincoln, Neb. I met several junior board members of the Junior Hereford Association. They recommended highly Kansas State.”

What tributes and awards are you most proud of in your young life?

“First would be winning a MYBEP (Minnesota Youth Beef Expo Program) Heifer in 2017,” Mouser  said. “That program really motivated me for further ambitions. I was awarded a Hereford heifer donated by a great family — Gerald and McKinley Flower, (Gregory Feed Lots, Tabor, Iowa). I’ve had a great relationship with them and have learned so much from them. They’ve been great mentors for me. 

“Since then I’ve won a scholarship to the Faces of Leadership Conference in Lincoln. Also, I entered three of my steers in a contest called The National Junior Hereford Association ‘Fed Steer’ Shootout. I sent them to a feedlot in Iowa. From this feedlot I received all their ultrasound info on marbling scores and rib eye area data. That competition included putting together a performance portfolio on carcass data; feed costs; and expense report on everything that goes into that animal. Then you write an essay on what you learned.

“Out of 40 participants, I was selected into the top five. I won $1,000 and a trip to Kansas City which is next weekend (Oct. 26-27) so I fly out with my parents for that event. I get to give a speech on what I’ve learned. Plus I get interviewed by the judges. From that event, the Junior Hereford Association selects their Junior of the Year. I’m excited and hoping I might one of these top five contestants.

“Another big achievement was being accepted at the Nebraska Youth Beef Leadership Symposium (Nov. 8-10) at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. I get to work with a professional chef and develop a new beef dish and marketing strategy to introduce this new beef dish.”

And there’s more. Mouser said the past two years she has also been competing in the Science of Agriculture Response Challenge through the Minnesota 4-H program. “With two other girls we are a team called ‘Future Generations’,” she said. “We have developed two curriculums:  the first for fourth and fifth graders on GMOs in crop productions; the second was on gene editing. We won first place both years and $1,000 scholarships each.”

So what’s the future of organics in beef production? Mouser quickly responded, “There is no such thing as a GMO cow! There is no such thing as GMO beef! GMO genetics is primarily limited to plants and feed grains. There are only 10 crops in the United States approved for commercial use that are genetically modified. However, gene editing is showing a really bright future. I did a presentation at our county 4-H fair. It’s called, ‘Redefining the Future’ and it talks about gene edited cows that are resistant to bovine respiratory diseases. This disease is huge in the cattle industry and causes billions of dollars. Some scientists have found a way through DNA technology to make these cattle directly resistant to the bovine bacteria. I haven’t yet found the information that tells me when this DNA material might be ready for the cattle industry. I contacted the research doctor at the University of California who is one of the leaders on this program. She provided some articles written in 2018 about this technology. When this gets approval, it will be a huge protective medicine for the cattle industry worldwide. It’s pretty big stuff!”

And what’s the special treat for Mouser at the Minnesota Beef Expo?  “I love coming to this show every year and the opportunities it provides with the fitting contest and the judging contest. Plus the great speakers at the symposium. But most important is reconnecting with all my friends. Yes, Beef Expo is mighty special.”

Yes, Haley Mouser is special too. But keep track. This young lady is already a super achiever!