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Research shows 4-H lessons last a lifetime

4-H livestock projects are an effective vehicle to teach young people valuable skills that last a lifetime.

Research has shown that middle and high school students participating in 4-H livestock projects gain more knowledge, skills and behaviors that benefit them for a lifetime than compared with their non-4-H peers. 4-H members who are involved in livestock projects learn more than just animal science. They also learn how to:

• Make good ethical decisions.

• Keep records.

• Set goals and plan.

• Budget and manage finances.

• Take personal responsibility in producing safe and wholesome food.

As part of all 4-H livestock projects, it is the responsibility of every 4-H member to ensure that proper care is taken of their animal(s) according to acceptable methods of good animal husbandry, as set forth by Colorado State University Extension and the Colorado Department of Agriculture. A healthy animal requires sufficient food, water, shelter and appropriate health care. Specific animal husbandry guidelines and humane training methods are provided in the appropriate 4-H manual. But is this all that our 4-Hers learn when enrolled in a livestock project?

Recently, I had the pleasure of spending time with two of our senior livestock members, both of whom had spent 10 years actively engaged in the 4-H program.

Both young ladies had learned the proper handling and care of animals destined to enter the food chain. It was clear that they understood their responsibility in insuring the wholesomeness of the food animals that they are producing through the 4-H program. The demands and responsibilities of raising animals taught them valuable life skills well beyond the scope of animal husbandry. The life skills needed to prepare and transition these young ladies into adulthood were being mastered!

Breanna Voorhis is passionate about rabbits, having raised them for the past 12 years. For those youth interested in raising livestock, Breanna suggested you “do what you enjoy and have fun!” And that is exactly what she does. As a 4-H member, she has successfully raised a variety of livestock: rabbits (10 years), goats (four years), poultry (five years) and turkey (four years). Though Holland Lops are her favorite breed, she is currently raising Californians and breeding New Zealands. She began breeding her New Zealands early this spring so that she would have two litters: one litter to raise in preparation for the county fair and the second for the state fair.

“My county fair babies enjoy bread, carrots, dandelions and molasses,” said Breanna. She is sure to point out that her responsibilities include watering and feeding her rabbits every morning and night and cleaning cages when needed.

Raising livestock is nothing new for 4-H member Kalie Ray, who has raised swine (10 years), lamb (eight years) and goats (seven years). Kalie has also had plenty of experience breeding.

“My goat project is year round because we breed our own goats,” said Kalie, “but my swine and lamb projects start in March when we purchase them.”

Her animals are very unique this year. “They have a lot of energy and use it any chance they get. My sheep and pigs chase each other all around and fight over food. My pigs are very content in any big mud hole they can find.”

The best advice Kalie has for youth wanting to raise livestock is to, “go into the project wholeheartedly. As a livestock member in 4-H, you truly get out what you put in. So, the more effort and work you put in, the more knowledge, skill and money you get out in the end.”

Kalie shared her skills and knowledge with new livestock members and those needing a refresher in the annual Meat Quality Assurance class. The required hour-long class was followed by a brief multiple-answer test, in which all students passed thanks to Kalie’s vast knowledge and understanding.

Clearly, these ladies have learned the demands and responsibilities of raising the animals, maintaining the following data for their record books that will be judged at fair time:

• Feeding logs.

• Weight gains.

• Medication.

• Breeding records.

• Pedigrees.

• Other shows and competitions attended.

•Expense logs (i.e. food, tack, medicine).

Just as in adulthood, our livestock members describe to me the many challenges when it comes to managing time, money and resources.

Breanna’s biggest challenge was determining which of her rabbits to keep or sell, “I have a very intense connection with my rabbits.”

As you might imagine, it is never easy to sell the animals you’ve spent so much time raising and caring for over the course of a year. “When I raised goats I cried every year after auction loading them on the truck,” recounted Breanna.

One rabbit she will never be able to sell is Maddie, her showmanship rabbit of five years. Maddie is now a grandma rabbit at 8 years old, emphasizing the fact that raising livestock is a family project. Breanna’s mom will be watching over Maddie and a few of the other “keepers” while her daughter attends Fort Lewis College in the fall. Since she has one more year before turning 18 years old, Breanna will continue to judge rabbits, travel the state and compete nationally with her rabbits.

As senior 4-H members, the highlight of their career comes when youngsters can showcase what they’ve learned and share their accomplishments at the county fair, state fair and other 4-H competitions.

For Kalie, showing her animals in the market show and competing in showmanship is her favorite part of being a 4-H livestock member. She describes showmanship as being, “not based on the quality of the animal or its meat,” but rather a way to test her skills and abilities in showcasing her animal to the judges.

“The best way to prepare for showmanship is to clean up yourself and your animal and to learn about your animal to the best of your ability,” advised Kalie.

Breanna confided to me that, “4-H provides a community hard to find in this world. Everyone is helpful and wants you to learn and grow in anything you like. You get to learn things you like and things you didn’t expect to learn.”

Her words ring true concerning the overall purpose of the 4-H Program. 4-H focuses on the positive development of tangible life skills for youth, allowing children ages 8-18 to become competent in the life skills that will prepare them for the transition to adulthood. Developing skills that are healthy and productive for both youth and their communities is a positive experience, whether it is in livestock, sewing, rocketry or shooting sports projects.

“4-H to me is a stepping stone for kids to assist them in learning the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to go into the world and be successful,” said Kalie. “It’s not only about being rewarded for your work but about taking all your work and having pride in it and using it for the better.”

Before we closed out our interview, I asked each of the young ladies to describe what 4-H has meant to them.

Kalie reflected on her years in 4-H and revealed that, “The most valuable thing I’ve learned from 4-H is self-confidence and the ability to speak in front of people. I’ve also learned how to have responsibility not only for myself, but for my animals and their well-being. I have learned to put so much more work into everything I do.”

Both noted the life skills they had mastered within the 4-H Program, with wisdom and sage advice to try new opportunities, make mistakes, and try again.

“4-H is my childhood,” Breanna said, confidently. “It has set an example of how I want my future life to be. My children will definitely grow up in 4-H.”

If you would like to learn more about becoming a 4-H member or 4-H volunteer, stop by or call the CSU Extension-Archuleta County office and speak with Becky Jacobson, 4-H program coordinator, or Liz Haynes, Extension director/agent at 264-5931.

Energy Master Program

Various Colorado State University Extension offices across the state — including Archuleta County — are now offering a new Colorado Energy Master program to educate Coloradans and support volunteers interested in energy issues. Participants can take one or more three-week courses: Energy Today, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Courses are taught by university, utility and Extension staff and include hands-on learning experiences and short field trips. They are targeted for home and small business owners interested in saving energy and money, educators, realtors, recent college graduates and retirees. Each course has been approved for nine hours of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) by the U.S. Green Building Certification Institute and four to nine hours of CEUs through the Colorado Association of Realtors.

Aspiring Colorado Energy Master volunteers take all three courses at a reduced cost and can volunteer in a number of ways — from conducting basic home energy assessments to educating neighbors and friends.

For more information and to register for fall courses, visit, contact Liz Haynes at 264-5931, e-mail or stop by the Extension Office at the fairgrounds.

If you have a disability for which you seek an accommodation, please contact the Extension Office no less than five days before classes begin.

Volunteer at the fair

Be a part of the fun and excitement of the Archuleta County Fair, Aug. 2-5, by donating your time to a great cause. Volunteers receive a free T-shirt while they help make the fair a great success.

For more information on volunteer opportunities, contact Stacie at 264-2475 or the Extension Office at 264-5931.


July 19 — 4-H Demonstration make-up dession — 10 a.m.

July 19 —?4-H Vet Science Project meeting — 4:30 p.m.

July 19 — 4-H Movie Night at the Liberty Theater — 6 p.m.

July 20 — 4-H Make-Up meeting — 10:30 a.m.

July 20 — Wolf Creek Wonders 4-H Club meeting — 2 p.m.

July 23 — 4-H Rocketry Project meeting — 3 p.m.

July 23 — 4-H Sewing Project meeting — 3 p.m.

July 24 — 4-H Scrapbooking Project meeting — 9 a.m.

July 24 — 4-H Sewing Project meeting — 3 p.m.

July 24 — 4-H Livestock Interview and Record Book review — 5 p.m.

July 25 — 4-H Sewing Project meeting — 3 p.m.

July 25 — 4-H Sportfishing Project meeting — 4 p.m.

July 25 — Archuleta County Fair Board meeting — 6 p.m.

July 25 — 4-H Livestock check weights — 6 p.m.

July 26 — 4-H Scrapbooking Project meeting — 1:30 p.m.

Learn more about our upcoming events on our webpage at<

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