- Agronomic: barley, corn, oats, soybeans, sunflower, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
- Animals: bovine, goats, swine, sheep
- Animal Production: feed/forage, feed additives, feed formulation, feed rations, livestock breeding, mineral supplements, preventive practices, stockpiled forages, stocking rate
- Crop Production: food product quality/safety
- Education and Training: demonstration, display, networking, workshop, youth education
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, marketing management, value added
- Pest Management: biological control, chemical control, disease vectors, prevention, sanitation
To educate youth about livestock production and the use of proper animal handling skills, SDSU Extension is developing a Livestock Skill-a-thon program. Skill-a-thons teach current livestock industry topics and allow youth to demonstrate their abilities in a competitive setting through hands-on activities. The goal, through SDSU Extension, is to provide skill-a-thons for South Dakota youth and promote the educational values youth learn from raising livestock projects. Providing these educational experiences throughout the state will allow youth to become more educated consumers and give them the confidence to be advocates for agriculture.
Youth will participate in hands-on activities to further develop their managerial skills within their livestock project area(s) (beef, sheep, swine, goats, etc.). Activities may include recognizing feed samples, identifying animal structure, practicing medication administrations, and forming oral responses to production scenarios. The Skill-a-thon program will recognize outstanding youth who excel in understanding the principles of the daily care and management of their animal projects.
By participating in a skill-a-thon, youth will receive the opportunity to network with agricultural industry representatives, as well as university faculty from South Dakota’s land grant institution, SDSU. South Dakota will benefit by building stronger relationships between the state’s current agriculture institutions/businesses and future producers/consumers.
Livestock Skill-a-thons are comprised of four hands-on-stations covering sustainable managerial practices in the following areas; animal handling and health practices, nutrition, animal selection and marketing, and animal products. Youth will individually complete each station facilitated by trained volunteers from SDSU Extension, SDSU Animal Science Department, commodity group representatives, local veterinarians and livestock producers. Youth will have the opportunity to interact and review answers with the station facilitator to increase their knowledge and identify areas they need to improve.
Each youth will be scored on accuracy of completion within each station. Scores will be added and combined for a final score for each youth. Awards, sponsored by local and state livestock industry groups, will be awarded to the high scoring individuals in each pre-determined age group. The focus will be on recognizing youth that understand the entire scope of sustainable livestock production and how the different aspects noted contribute to that. Skill-a-thon materials will be available for use throughout South Dakota in preparation for the State Skill-a-thon competition held at the South Dakota State Fair. The State Fair Skill-a-thon will be a showcase for youth to demonstrate their knowledge in front of the public.
Animal Handling and Health Practices
To address the concerns of current animal welfare issues, animal handling practices will be a major component of Skill-a-thon activities. Youth will be tested on their knowledge and understanding of establishing herd health management plans that will include biosecurity, vaccination programs, and treatment records. Youth will practice administering different medications utilizing animal models printed medication labels complete animal treatment records. Furthermore, youth will demonstrate and present how to properly and safely handle livestock to promote the understanding of animal behavior and use of safety precautions.
For nutrition management, youth will complete identification exercises in grain and forage samples, animal anatomy for nutrient absorption and utilization in the body, and nutrient deficiencies that affect animal health. To assist in the education, feed samples and diagrams of animal anatomy will be provided. Topics of forage/pasture management will also be addressed testing youth’s knowledge of intensive, rotational, and seasonal grazing systems.
Animal Selection and Marketing
To demonstrate the importance of using technology and animal selection practices to provide food more efficiently in a growing world population, youth will use their knowledge of marketing and animal selection. They will utilize breed pictures and mock performance records to identify and recognize different breeds within species and their attributes by labeling example pictures and diagrams. This will allow for the introduction of niche marketing concepts that utilize different breeds or finishing and managerial practices. The youth will also identify marketing program concepts used on the three levels of production; seedstock, commercial, and growers.
Meat and wool samples (storage containers needed) will be used for youth to identify. Retail and wholesale cuts of meat or diagrams will be used to show how quality and cutability are impacted from animal handling and nutrition management practices. Youth will evaluate fleeces and identify different quality attributes of wool samples.
Today’s agricultural practices are threatened by public perception from an uneducated consumer base. Animal welfare and youth involvement with livestock has become an increasing concern. Youth are responsible for daily management and care of their animals which require them to understand basic animal production practices, which will prepare them for the future when they themselves become producers and consumers. In South Dakota there are few opportunities for youth to demonstrate their livestock management and handling skills outside of a show ring.
By participating in a Livestock Skill-a-thon, youth will gain a stronger knowledge base and be able to recognize and identify problems in production practices. Youth will develop a sense of value for education by being rewarded for success in the Skill-a-thon program. They will strengthen their decision making skills and become more confident in finding solutions. Becoming exposed to current or new production practices and how to implement them will allow youth to continue to have success in their own livestock programs.
Youth will establish a professional relationship with SDSU Extension and industry leaders. This relationship will continue into the future. Youth will learn how to network and communicate with these individuals to assist in sustaining their own operations.