CSU, Chico

Austin Fischer, Animal Science

Austin Fischer, Animal Science

 Austin Fischer

Senior animal science major and 2014 Star Student Austin Fischer has never questioned what he wants to do for a career. It’s been said that if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life—and Fischer has found what he loves. He has been working in the cattle industry, starting with his parents’ cow-calf operation, essentially since he could walk. His experience with cattle production has only continued to expand throughout his time at California State University, Chico. Fischer can be found at the CSU, Chico beef unit nearly all 365 days of the year. He is a member of the Chico State Young Cattlemen’s Association, was a Shasta County Beef Ambassador, and claims to eat beef on a daily basis. Naturally, Fischer has every intention on entering the beef industry upon graduation this May. 

Fischer grew up in Cottonwood, Calif., on his parents’ commercial cow-calf operation. Growing up, he was active in both 4-H and FFA. Prior to being eligible to show in FFA, he showed market steers in 4-H. In eighth grade, he began showing his cattle through West Valley FFA Chapter. His senior year of high school and into his freshman year of college, Fischer served as the Shasta County Beef Ambassador after winning the county contest. He then went on to compete at the state level. The beef ambassador contest is designed to educate youth about how to proactively promote the beef industry by participating in media interviews, consumer demonstrations, and written issues-response challenges.

Fischer also judged livestock and played baseball all four years of high school. His livestock judging coach, Craig Taylor, is an alumnus of CSU, Chico College of Agriculture and was the one who initially sparked Fischer’s interest in coming to Chico. “Everyone who comes to CSU, Chico loves it, and the teachers and staff are excellent and help make your experience here incredible,” said Fischer. 

Now in his senior year of college, Fischer has spent three and a half years working at the University Farm’s Beef Unit. For the past two and a half years, Fischer has been the lead herdsman, living in an apartment on the farm in exchange for his dedication and hard work to the unit. Fischer and his team are responsible for feeding, cleaning, monitoring, and evaluating steers to determine if they are harvest-ready. The beef unit currently has 80 cows and 25 replacement heifers. In addition to the breeding herd, there are also consistently around 120 head of feedlot steers onsite that are owned by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Fischer helps determine which of these steers are harvest-ready, and one steer a week is harvested for the Sierra Nevada Taproom and Restaurant. The beef unit breeds cattle mainly for educational purposes; however, they do sell purebred bulls to cattle producers as well. 

“I came to CSU, Chico with cattle experience, so in that aspect not much has changed. However, what has been the most beneficial to me is the feedlot experience while working at the beef unit,” explained Fischer. “Working at the beef unit has also given me an insight to what it’s like managing a team. We consistently have four to five people out there, and overseeing that has been both challenging and rewarding.”

In addition to the daily maintenance of the beef unit, Fischer also helps to monitor the various research projects being conducted there. This year, a $50,000 donation allowed the beef unit to purchase six electronic feed systems called GrowSafe feeders. The feeders collect data to monitor feed intake and observe each animal’s behavior. Each steer is tagged with an electronic ear tag that registers every time the animal eats. With this information, the system is able to calculate intake by monitoring the weight of the feed in the bin before, during, and after each animal from the herd eats. This allows beef unit staff to determine more efficient animals and pinpoint various health issues with cattle that go off feed. Fischer and his team have been working with the project since its start last fall through collecting data and monitoring the overall care of the research herd.  

Through working at the beef unit, he has worked closely with animal science professors Dr. Kasey DeAtley and Dr. Dave Daley. “They’ve both taught me so much in and outside of the classroom. They’ve both pushed me to always strive to be better and to work harder,” explained Fischer. “For example, instead of going straight into the work force, Dr. DeAtley is encouraging to get my master’s after graduation this May. That’s one of my favorite things about the College of Ag, all of the teachers are so friendly and willing to help you; they genuinely want you to be successful.”

With DeAtley’s persuasion, Fischer is looking into pursuing his master’s in animal reproduction from Colorado State University. After he is finished with school, he would like to work as a herdsman of a cattle ranch.