Farm Talk

March 20, 2013

K-State livestock program equips youth with swine ownership skills

by Brandi Buzzard Frobose

Parsons, Kansas — Agriculture needs young people — they are the future of food production and their creativity and enthusiasm for agriculture will set the stage for addressing the trials of this century.

However, even though youth and new ideas are needed in the industry, getting young people involved in production agriculture is challenging. One way to combat this challenge is exposing youth to livestock and agriculture programs and activities early on in their childhood.

The Youth Livestock Program at Kansas State University strives to engage youth from around the state in agriculture activities to promote involvement and education in the livestock industry.

One of the most popular events of the Youth Livestock Program is the Kansas Junior Swine Producer Day that was held February 16 in Weber Arena on K-State’s campus. More than 175 youth ranging in age from 7-18 years old and 110 adults convened to listen to several speakers and leaders from the swine industry share advice on how to feed, raise and care for market hogs.

Kyle Baade, herdsman at Penner Genetics in Plymouth, Neb., led a seminar about proper conformation when purchasing pigs and also detailed proper nutritional guidelines and feeding strategies. Throughout the seminar Baade stressed the importance of structural conformation and evaluating genetics when choosing animals, and stated that a sound animal with good genetics will set up youth for successful projects.

Baade also fielded questions during his presentation regarding the proper level of vitamins and supplements in rations as well as what to look for in show pigs that will eventually return to the family pork production system.

Youth Livestock Program coordinator, Kristine Clowers, states that the she encourages a high level of education in all 4-H and FFA projects and strives to cater the Youth Livestock Program towards that goal.

“Showing is an important part of the project, however learning to properly take care of the animal and developing the best quality possible end product, all while making a small profit, is extremely important for youth to learn” adds Clowers.

One of the highlights of the day included a Youth Pork Quality Assurance Plus Certification session led by Dr. Joel DeRouchey, K-State Swine Extension Specialist, and swine nutrition graduate students Josh Flohr and Kyle Coble. The session was designed to encourage youth to develop utmost animal care skills, engage with professionals about nutrition and health, and prepare them for livestock ownership.

One such skill clearly demonstrated, was the process of properly storing, labeling and administering antibiotics. This hands-on activity was easy for all children to participate in by injecting oranges, bananas and pork samples with colored water to simulate antibiotics. Participants were able to see first-hand what happens to an organism during an injection and left the session with a sturdy grasp of judicious antibiotic use.

When youth were asked for feedback and to provide one new thing they learned, one child commented “mixing animal antibiotics is illegal and could be dangerous to the animal” while another responded “your needle length is one of the most important factors in giving a shot.”

Other highly successful sessions of the event included a showmanship clinic allowing students to showcase their skills and receive feedback from the workshop leaders.

Josh Flohr and Kyle Coble again led the workshops and assisted youth with their show skills along with answering questions about how to catch the judge’s eye and proper whip handling.

Youth also participated in a mock swine skillathon in which they were tasked with identifying differing cuts of pork, feedstuffs, breeds of pigs and equipment used in the swine industry.

While proving challenging for the younger participants, the older youth embraced the activity and several were even seen assisting the younger children and answering questions.

The sight of kids helping kids is a defining characteristic of 4-H, FFA and other youth agriculture programs, which drives parents to get their children involved at an early age.

The K-State Youth Livestock Program is committed to providing learning opportunities for youth in agriculture and will be hosting the Kansas Junior Meat Goat Producer Day on March 23 as well as the Animal Sciences Leadership Academy which takes place June 5-8. Parents and children interested in attending or participating can visit, contact Kristine Clowers at 785-532-1264 or visit K-State Youth Livestock Program on Facebook. £