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Want an A? Help sell a cow.

Two females with a dairy cow

It’s rare for more than 100 people to gather to watch a final exam.

It’s even more unusual for some of them to walk away from that with a goat.

Saturday’s Fourth Annual Wolfpack Roundup managed both, as students from Professor Gary Gregory’s Livestock Merchandizing class ran the auction at the Beef Education Unit and sold about two dozen horses, cows, goats and sheep for a final grade. Proceeds help cover operating expenses at the agriculture education units where the animals are raised.

“The way I run the class, I tell them that it’s a job, they’re my employees and they’re going to go out and work — and their salary in this particular class is their grade,” Gregory said. “They get an idea what it’s like to get out there and work, and are hopefully a little more prepared when they go out in the real world.”

The event brings together many of the trademark elements of the Animal Science program: Hands-on experience in the field. Problem-solving collaboration across majors. Real-world lessons that help students become agricultural leaders after graduation.

During the semester, students learn to take care of the animals and prepare them for auction. They collect information for the sale catalog, create event advertisements and work with potential buyers.

Kelly McKinney, in her second year studying agricultural business management at the Agricultural Institute, was on a team overseeing five yearlings sold at Saturday’s auction.

“[Gregory] basically had to make us all horse trainers within a few months,” McKinney said.

Because much of the class involves group work, students learn to collaborate with people of different personalities and backgrounds, preparing them for a diverse workplace.

“We don’t want to sell the animal for less than it’s worth, but the most important thing is what students get out of it,” Gregory said. “I want to know I’ve done my part to train our future leaders.”

Both McKinney and sophomore animal science major Jennifer Ferreira said the class’s emphasis on practical application has been invaluable. The experience boosted Ferreira’s confidence working with horses, which she used to dislike.

“This honestly has helped shape my character,” she said.

At the event, students handle everything from check-in to animal handling. The Roundup is well enough known to draw repeat customers, Gregory said, some from across the state. Farmer and NC State University parent Brian Causey bought a cow and calf at Saturday’s event.

“One reason to purchase something here is because you know you’re supporting the students and the program,” Causey said. “I also think we got a good value.”

More than just a grade, students get a sense of pride, Gregory said.

“When sale is over with, they can see a dollar value of all their work,” he said.

-C. Kellner