Breaking barriers: Women thriving in agriculture at Herd That! Conference

From left to right: Women in Agriculture Program Assistant Jennifer Hill, Intern Mikayla Martensen, and Extension Educator/Director of the Nebraska Women in Agriculture Jessica Groskopf.

Nasrin Nawa | 

October 2, 2023


The 2023 Herd That! Conference provided 75 attendees with an immersive experience in livestock and cattle management. The Nebraska Women in Agriculture program, in collaboration with the Nebraska Beef Quality Assurance program, successfully hosted the third annual Herd That! Conference in Broken Bow, Nebraska, in September.

"More and more women are taking an active role in agriculture. I'm involved on our ranch in a different way than my mother or mother-in-law were, said Anita Keys, a dedicated participant who has attended all three Herd That! Conferences over the past three years said. "These trainings allow me to ask questions and attend sessions on topics we use regularly. I feel women bring balance to decision-making and are a valuable part of today's world of agriculture."

Teri Jo Bek, a retired University of Nebraska–Lincoln professor, emphasized the importance of education for women in agriculture. "The education coming out of the university for women, especially those who might have heard that 'you need to step back because you're female' is so important," she said. It equips them with essential skills and knowledge to not only survive but also succeed in the industry. Bek was involved in the inaugural Ag conference for women at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln from the beginning.

 The event focuses on providing women with the knowledge, tools and skills they need to succeed in this facet of the agricultural industry. However, it's not just about skills; it's also about building connections among women in the industry.

Jennifer Hill, an Extension program assistant, highlighted the value of networking during the conference. "We're such an interesting segment of the population — women in agriculture," she said. "It's not something that everybody understands. We have unique challenges and unique opportunities. It is so valuable to get a chance to connect with each other and realize we're not alone in this, that other women are experiencing the exact same things we are. Just that in itself is worth attending."

Hill noted that she is a rancher as well as a generational rancher with her husband and family. "So, I know from personal experience how hard it can be to find those resources when you don't know where to look," she said. "Being part of providing those resources to women in Nebraska who are going through the same things is a great opportunity." 

The two-day conference featured a diverse range of speakers and topics for attendees to learn from. A highlight of the program was a horsemanship demonstration, and the keynote speaker, Calli Thorne, delivered an engaging address.

Keys shared her insights from the conference, particularly praising a session by Karla Wilke, Ph.D., titled "Cattle Eat That?!". She found it beneficial for addressing consumer questions and stated, "I plan to use this in my volunteer work with Common Ground Nebraska."

Participants also had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience at various educational stations at the Custer County Fairgrounds and tour Adams Land and Cattle.

Keys continued to share her takeaways, highlighting a session by Troy Walz on "Forage Sampling and Pasture Monitoring" as particularly useful. "I learned more about proper sampling and various hay probes," she said. "Plus, I have a better understanding of the analysis part now." 

Hill emphasized Herd That! as a relatively new but significant conference for women in agriculture that offers diverse insights and resources in one comprehensive package. Women in Agriculture program also offers a bigger conference for women in February, approaching its 40th year. For more information about the Nebraska Women in Agriculture program, visit this website