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  • Cornell Cooperative Extension
  • Animal Science
  • Animals

Brian Aukema ’98, senior extension associate, joined the Department of Animal Science in fall 2023 as the New York state 4-H livestock and companion animal specialist. We sat down with him for a chat about his interests, goals and background. 

What is the focus of your new job here in animal science?

To provide statewide leadership for New York 4-H animal science livestock (beef, sheep, goats, poultry and swine) and companion animals (dogs, rabbits and other pets). My position works with 4-H Extension staff and volunteers at the county level to develop trainings, opportunities and program development in the areas of animal science. 

To me, animal science is so much more than animals. The animal is the carrot that we can utilize to teach youth responsibility, decision making, budgeting, time management, confidence, teamwork, patience, a strong work ethic and how to challenge themselves and others in a positive way.

What brought you to Cornell? 

When I was in seventh grade, I took part in the New York State 4-H Career Exploration event at Cornell University. It was at this event I developed a love for Cornell and 4-H. I decided right then that I wanted to become a 4-H educator and that I would attend Cornell. I believe this event shaped my career goals, and it is the reason I am where I am professionally now!

What is your background?

I graduated from the State University of New York, Morrisville, with an A.A.S. in agricultural business, then attended Cornell and received a B.S. in animal science in 1998. Afterwards, I graduated from the State University of New York, Oswego, with an M.S. in vocational education. 

I worked with Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Broome County for 24 years in various capacities. I ended up as the associate director of agriculture, overseeing the youth and adult agricultural programs, the horticultural program and a solid waste program. I also was in charge of the CCE Broome facilities, including a five-acre botanical garden, a regional farmer’s market and a nature center.   

Tell us about the youth programs you are currently working on.

I am working with the New York State 4-H Livestock Advisory committee to offer regional skillathons for the first time in New York. The skillathon is a program that youth can take part in at the New York state fair and then have a chance to be selected for the New York state 4-H team to attend the national competition in Kentucky in November. 

This program is an opportunity for all youth across the state to learn about livestock, whether or not they can own an animal. Stations include hay judging, equipment identification, wool evaluation, breeds identification, feed identification and meat cuts identification. We hope to provide youth with the opportunity to blend knowledge and skills gained in livestock judging, demonstrations, care and exhibition of animals into one activity.

This past year, I also helped create various virtual programs for our youth, reaching over 200 families across the state. I hosted a virtual livestock summit with presenters from New York state and the Midwest. Currently, we are in a six-week series on livestock judging, where a presenter from Kansas teaches about judging both market animals and breeding animals. 

I am excited about these opportunities for youth to learn from livestock experts from across the country. It is my goal to build enthusiasm around some of these topics and then begin to offer one-day programs in New York focused on livestock.

"The opportunities are endless. Agriculture is one thing every person in the world has in common. No matter their belief, every person needs to eat!"

What most excites you about agriculture in New York?

We are at a time where agriculture is being acknowledged by government officials, schools and residents as an important part of our state. We are at a place where the consumer wants to know more about where their food comes from. This provides an opportunity for farmers to increase direct sales and their diversity of offerings, and it allows a space for youth to begin building their own markets and businesses for the future. 

The opportunities are endless. Agriculture is one thing every person in the world has in common. No matter their belief, every person needs to eat!

Daniella Garcia Almeida '25 is a student writer for the Cornell CALS Department of Animal Science.

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