The Business of Large Animals

Alyson Bronnenberg and child with oxen

Alyson (Huppe) Bronnenberg, Thompson School Class of 2003, discusses the benefits of the Applied Animal Science program, her wish that she had stayed to gain a concentration in Applied Business Management and how her degree is helping her now with her oxen supply business. 

Throughout high school I knew I wanted to pursue a career working with cattle.  I had many years of experience training and working oxen, and I wanted to broaden my knowledge, so I decided to major in Applied Animal Science with a concentration in Dairy Management.  I wanted an education that was hands-on and that would prepare me to go directly into the workforce. 

As a Thompson School student, I quickly learned that TSAS has many positive aspects, but the hands on, practical experience and small class sizes were two of the most important for me.  In dairy classes we spent many hours in the barns and fields learning dairy farming practices, and the general animal classes taught us the important skills that would be necessary for a career in any area of agriculture.  One of the most important teaching tools that Thompson School provided were the many opportunities to speak with people working in the dairy industry everyday – the farmers, veterinarians, etc.  I was also impressed with the enthusiasm of the professors and the passion that they had for the topics they taught. 

During my college career, I worked on dairy farms and was offered a job at a large draft horse and farrier supply store upon graduation.  Though I did not enter a career in dairy farming, there is no doubt that I used my Thompson School education.  The general animal classes gave me a basic knowledge of horse husbandry to be able to help customers. Looking back, I would have benefited greatly from staying a third year at the Thompson School to earn a second concentration in Applied Business Management, as I eventually became store manager.  I believe the third year for business would be an asset to anyone’s education as you will use it regardless of what field you choose to pursue. 

Later in my career when my first child was born, I decided to take over part of my family’s ox supply business, New England Ox Supply, a mail order business that sells supplies for working steers and oxen throughout the country.  In taking over this business, my education from Thompson School continued to prove invaluable.  Not only am I now selling supplies for oxen, but I am often called upon to answer questions about cattle husbandry, nutrition and health issues that may or may not be specific to oxen.  This is due to the fact that there are limited resources for information about oxen outside the New England area.  I am able to answer many of these questions, making recommendations and more, due to the knowledge of cattle I gained from the Thompson School.

My final thought is that my education from the Thompson School, combined with my practical experience has allowed me to run my own business in an industry that I am passionate about and there isn’t anything better than that!