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4-H Livestock Skillathon

November 14, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about Mississippi 4-H Livestock Skillathon. Hello, I'm Amy Myers and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Heather Jennings and Jennifer Williams, Mississippi State University Extension 4-H agents. So Jennifer, tell me first about who can apply or who can qualify for this 4-H Livestock Skillathon.

Jennifer Williams: We actually utilize our contestants in the Livestock Premier Exhibitor Contest that takes place at Dixie National. And from there, we'll look at their Skillathon scores to select the team that'll compete at the National Skillathon Contest in the fall.

Amy Myers: Now Heather, what exactly does the Skillathon contest consist of?

Heather Jennings: So the youth will compete in Louisville, Kentucky in the fall each year. They will be asked to know information regarding beef, cattle, sheep, goats, and swine.

Amy Myers: So what kind of information is this?

Heather Jennings: Individually, they will have to compete at various stations such as know livestock equipment identification, breed identification, retail meat cuts, hay and wool judging, quality assurance and a quiz. As a team, they will compete in stations consisting of quality assurance, meat and carcass evaluation, marketing, animal breeding, management performance and marketing, as well as livestock feeding.

Amy Myers: Jennifer, tell me, are they going to be able to handle animals or handle products?

Jennifer Williams: They do actually. In the individual portion of the contest, they actually get to handle the wool samples for that class. So they'll pick it up to see how heavy or light the wool is. They get to take out a staple of wool to check length and cramp size. On the team portion for quality assurance, they actually get to handle livestock. What's the proper technique when administering medication, how to weigh those animals and figure out gains and losses.

Amy Myers: So this is really like a hands-on real-world experience and they actually get to compete and be judged based on this, right?

Jennifer Williams: Yeah, exactly.

Amy Myers: Okay. Now Heather, talk to me about the volunteers who exactly instructs the team and prepares them for a competition?

Heather Jennings: So Dr. Dean Jousan, Jennifer and myself do most of the instructing and the teaching, and we do rely a lot on our Mississippi State Extension family. We have Ty Jones come and talk about feeding and forages, Cobie Rutherford comes in and talks about livestock marketing. We do also go to other states. Dr. Travis Hoffman from North Dakota State University talks to our youth about lamb breeds and wool judging, and then we do also utilize the meat lab here on campus. They let us come in and look at meat cuts and look at the carcasses and learn more about that.

Amy Myers: Now Jennifer, tell about how the process starts. For those who want to get involved, what do they need to do and when?

Announcer: Their first step actually starts in December with applying for the Premier Exhibitor Scholarship Contest. From there, they'll compete at Dixie National, and the actual Skillathon portion starts in the spring and goes through the summer and fall, and we'll round it out with the national contest in Louisville, Kentucky.

Amy Myers: And the Dixie National part where they compete in premier exhibitor, that is in late January to early February, right?

Jennifer Williams: That's correct.

Amy Myers: Okay. So then from there the team is selected and then the preparation starts for the fall contest. Okay, great.

Now, Jennifer, it is really important to emphasize that these are skills that these young people can use in the real world later on in life.

Jennifer Williams: Yes, these are most definitely real-world skills they can apply in the future and they can apply it with their projects as they go throughout the year.

Amy Myers: And Heather, I understand that 2019 team has really had a great year.

Heather Jennings: That's right, Amy. In September we went to Arkansas and our team was named the 2019 Diamond State Classic Forage Livestock Skillathon champions.

Amy Myers: And that was a multi-state competition.

Heather Jennings: That is correct.

Amy Myers: Well, congratulations.

Heather Jennings: Thank you.

Amy Myers: Heather, if someone wants to be part of the 4-H Livestock Skillathon, how can they get an application or or learn more?

Heather Jennings: The easiest thing is to contact your Mississippi State University Extension agent or your local FFA advisor.

Amy Myers: All right. Thank you so much. Today we've been speaking with Heather Jennings and Jennifer Williams, Mississippi State University Extension agents. I'm Amy Myers and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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