URBANA, Ill. — Illinois teens gained hands-on experience in the livestock field in this year’s Illinois 4-H Junior Livestock Conference in April.
Youth were able to practice real-world skills in one of the first in-person statewide educational settings in over a year. “It was great to see the excitement on the kids’ faces once again,” says Dan Jennings University of Illinois Extension 4-H animal systems youth development educator. “The participants really enjoyed the chance to work with live animals in person. It was such a powerful learning experience.”
Teens participated in “Glove-Up Sessions” throughout the conference which allowed them to work hands-on in a variety of skills, such as milking a mechanical cow, practicing wound care on live animals, creating feed formulations, and more.
“I show beef and am starting to really learn about the different feeds and additives that I can feed my animals,” said participant Alex Barnard of Champaign County. “In the feed and nutrition session, I was able to learn about the different kinds of hay and the nutrients for your cow to be productive. It was cool to see a session about something that I was interested in but hadn’t learned about yet.”
Workshop sessions included judging poultry and eggs, testing for dairy cow mastitis, milking a cow, making rope halters, saddle fitting and livestock knots, techniques for identifying livestock, experimenting with nutrition, using magna wave laser therapy, and caring for hooves, and wound care.
The event focused on education, but also created great opportunities to build camaraderie and a sense of teamwork. “One of my favorite things about the conference was getting to meet new people,” says Alex. “And learning about how I can take bigger steps into leadership roles in 4-H and agriculture.”
The conference theme “Making Your Mark” illustrated the goal of helping kids feel empowered in their work with livestock today and tomorrow.
“These sessions gave kids hands-on skills and confidence in the livestock field, from learning how to identify disease to branding a steer to developing a new feed ration,” says Jennings. “Our aim with this conference and all of our programming is to help shape the next generation of leaders. And kids really took away a sense of ‘what’s next’ with their role in the livestock industry.”
— University of Illinois Extension
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