In many of the stockmanship and stewardship presentations I do I discuss why I feel 4H and FFA livestock projects are so important.
It used to be that most farms and ranches had a milk cow, some pigs and a chicken coop full of chickens. The care of them was often part of the chores of the young people in the family overseen by adults. The skills learned observing and caring for just a few animals, such as getting the milk cow in and milking, or gathering the eggs, developed the ability to really understand the husbandry and handling skills to make the transition to more numbers.
Now with the large numbers that most operations such as feedyards, hog and chicken farms or large ranch operations, we throw many employees with very little experience and they lack the basic husbandry skills that most everyone had when they grew up with it.
This creates the need to replace the lack of husbandry skills with things that cost money in extra expense or lack of optimal production. The farther we get away from basic animal skills, and with the shortage of skilled labor, the harder it gets to make a profit and the harder it is to satisfy our protein customers with what they want in animal care.
The young people that participate in livestock projects in 4H and FFA are getting the very experience of that many people in the past got with care of animals in small numbers, but they also get much more. They must keep records on their projects, pick the animals they think will do well, many of them market the animal before the sale, and learn that they must sell an animal that they have cared for and grown very fond of.
Now they also require “quality assurance” certification and training such as Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) which gives the members a great start in proper care and handling guidelines.
The parent and leader are so important in creating the support to make the experience a positive one.
So many of the leaders and successful people in the livestock industry have a background in 4H and FFA. It is so important for us to support and encourage young people to get involved.
I am fortunate to see the results and the positive impact these organizations have on agriculture. I also feel it draws young non agricultural kids in and many of them go on to study agriculture in college and really add to our industry.
There was a young man named Mark King in Helena, Montana that was a town kid that got involved in 4H and became a real leader and excellent stockman. He is now a Extension agent in Big Timber, Montana and helping bring many more young people forward in agriculture.
I have also seen the another side of 4H. My father, Tex Pate started auctioneering the 4H sale in Helena in 1966. There might of been one year he couldn’t do it but he sold the sale for over fifty years. My Brothers Doug and Dan now own the business and are still doing it. I am not sure how many years they have been doing it, but it’s a bunch.
I’ve done it off and on over the years and really enjoy it. It’s great to see the parents dedicating so much effort and time (and money) to their kids. It’s a sacrifice and I wish more parents would give such a great experience to their kids.
I’m sure there are some challenges but when I see the volunteers, leaders, parents, and past 4Hers supporting it’s pretty amazing.
Helena is a pretty big town. Small community’s have less animals to sell and many have a majority of the business that are Ag oriented. The businesses in Lewis and Clark county have been amazing supporters of the 4H sale all through the years. Some have spent thousands of dollars over the years. I am not sure they have got a monetary return on their investment, but I know they have sure done a lot of good for a lot of young folks.
This happens all over the country. I am so proud to be able to help just a little bit by spending a hot day every summer in Helena, Montana around some of the greatest people in the “country “ and seeing young people grow and excel through “stockmanship and stewardship “.
Here’s My brothers Doug and Dan selling at this years sale
I thought it would be fun to put the GoPro on and let you feel it from auctioneers point of view. I love to sell when the buyers are bidding and you have good ringmen. We had a lot of fun this year and the quality of the animals, kids and prices were amazing!
Curt, you are so right!! The responsibility this kids learn with their projects will serve them the rest of their lives!
Thank you for your contributions to their future!
LOVE! As a county extension support staff person, and the go to person for youth dairy and livestock, we are gearing up for fair in Dodge County, WI! Also, I am a past show mom of my own three girls, 4-H and FFA! Best time of my life. Hogs, steers, horses, chickens, geese, rabbits-all of it! Still involved in my own county’s Livestock Sale Committee.
Now my oldest is an Ag teacher and FFA Advisor. Love it all, and am so proud of my kids, their accomplishments, the work they did, and the adults they are now!