Growing better animals at 4-H Livestock Day Camp
Raising quality animals is a difficult task, fraught with oldschool wisdom and complex science. 4-H hosted their Livestock Day Camp at the Wadena County Fairgrounds on June 11. The camp is designed to be an introduction to the care and maintenance of farm animals. The activities had kids shaving goats, checking teeth, and learning about the methods associated the proper biosecurity.
The camp focused on three different species, market goats, sheep and beef. The day was broken down into multiple information sessions that shed light on different aspects of growing healthier animals, these sessions included nutrition, showing, and biosecurity. Helping the kids was County 4-H Program Coordinator Virginia Hendrickx.
"We're trying to teach them how to grow better animals, how to keep their herds safe," said Hendrickx. Hendrickx praised the day camp as very hands on way of teaching kids new things.
The entire day was a practice in the care of animals. In the goat area, students were shown how to shave a goat. The goat was placed in a special holder while the groomer carefully removed tufts of hair from its body, tail, and legs. The process was more difficult than expected. The goat was just a little ancy as a small crowd watched as its thick coat of hair was trimmed. Taking care of the goats fur is a very important element of competition showing. After the goats were groomed, they were trotted out in a mock fair showing. Students were quick to ask questions about what judges may or may not expecting.
In the sheep enclosure, students gathered around and discussed the various challenges associated with raising sheep. The quality of their mouth and teeth are directly related to the overall health of the animal. After a brief explanation of the technique for checking teeth, students entered the fencing to wrangle the easily frightened animals. After a tussle, the sheep was grabbed and its mouth was opened. They had to peer into the cavernous mouth of the sheep, checking for any abnormalities. Such an activity is commonplace on the farm and for showing.
Outside the 4-H building was the University of Minnesota biosecurity trailer. The unique trailer is an educational tool for teaching young ranchers and farmers about the dangers of contamination. Farm animals can be very susceptible to disease, so implementing biosecurity methods are crucial to maintaining their health. Staff explained the finer points of preventing contamination. They had students dress in the appropriate rubber boots and brought them to the trailer. On the entrance ramp students pretended to wash their boots. One by one, students took a hose and were shown how to fully remove mud and other contaminants from boots and clothes. The trailer was meant to symbolize a feed house during this exercise.
Even during lunch, students practiced tattooing, branding, and notching on makeshift hides. The animals were constructed from paper plates and pieces of leather. Students practiced using actual ranching implements to learn first hand about identification practices. The activity proved to be a fun, light hearted way to learn about something that can be a little nerve wracking for a new rancher.
Minnesota 4-H selected six locations within the state for a day camp. Many of the activities were designed with the upcoming county fair in mind. Biosecurity is especially important because certain measures have to be taken to protect animals during a competition showing.