MANHATTAN, Kan. — Five Kansas 4-H members in Elk County are getting an introduction to a lesser known form of animal care as they prep for a statewide science and engineering contest.
They will be presenting their work during the annual Science of Agriculture Challenge, which will be held Nov. 14 in Manhattan.
Earlier this year, veterinarian Andrea Arbuckle approached the Elk County 4-Hers with an idea to study the use of chiropractic medicine in chickens, cattle and pigs. “They probably thought I was crazy,” Arbuckle said.
“Yes, I did,” countered Wyatt Fechter, one of the 4-Hers.
“We wondered how you would adjust livestock,” Fechter said. “It’s not exactly like a human where you can tell them to lie down and pop them any way you want to.”
Listen to an interview by Jeff Wichman with Andrea Arbuckle and Wyatt Fechter during the Oct. 26 4-H segment on Agriculture Today
Similar to humans, animal chiropractic medicine specializes in treating the neurological and musculoskeletal systems of animals by performing adjustments to their joints and vertebrae. There is growing evidence that the procedures can help alleviate pain, restore balance and improve growth performance.
“I think when you tell most people that you are going to adjust livestock, they kind of look at you like you’re nuts,” Arbuckle said. “I think these kids have found some interesting stuff. There’s more work to be done, but they’ve done a good job with their project.”
In one portion of the study, the 4-H members controlled all variables for a set of broiler chickens initially raised in New Mexico. They performed chiropractic adjustments on half of the group, while the other half was used a control group.
Then they did a taste test.
“With our broilers, we conducted a blind taste test and found that 75% favored the adjusted chicken, 16% favored the non-adjusted, and 9% had no preference,” Fechter said.
In other words, chickens that received chiropractic care seem to taste better.
Arbuckle said that study is just the second of its kind that she is aware of. Some of the youth’s data is being presented at a conference of the American Holistic Veterinarians, and is being reviewed by peers for possible inclusion in professional journal articles.
The 4-H members also performed tests with cattle and pigs. They have been working on their science and agriculture project since last spring.
More information about the Science of Agriculture challenge and other programs offered by the Kansas 4-H Youth Development program is available online, or contact your local Kansas extension agent.
— Pat Melgares, K-State Research and Extension
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