Youths introduced to ag career fields
By MICHELE LINCK
SHELDON – Nearly 200 high school students got a taste on March 11 and 12 of the broad spectrum of careers related to animal production.
Some even got a taste of the five primary cuts of beef, grilled in a classroom.
The event, organized by Iowa State University Extension specialists from O’Brien and Sioux counties was held at Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon and was designed to showcase sciences and professions dealing either directly or indirectly with livestock production and other ag-related careers.
Workshop choices spanned the gamut of skills and understanding needed for animal science and in farm-related industries including agri-business, veterinary medicine, beef advocacy, ruminants, cow-calf operations, dairy science, animal nutrition science, chemistry, production methods, equipment engineering, livestock feeding and financial services.
It was just enough to give students a taste of each sector without overwhelming them, said Cindy Cleveringa, Sioux County youth program coordinator.
Dwayne Postma, the agriculture instructor at Central Lyon High School, brought a group of students to the first day of the workshop.
“The thing I’m hoping for is that they see all the opportunities. They’re going to be listening in on all these areas. The opportunities are right here,” he said.
“There’s more to ag than farming,” Gary Van Wyhe, an adult with the Central Lyon group, said, listing an agronomist working at the elevator, working at a bank, plus tech and bio-tech industries.
ISU and South Dakota State University Extension professors and other experts led the workshops.
The students chose multiple workshops to attend from a list of eight topics, each with a hands-on element. The goal was to introduce students to potential career opportunities and to give them a look at just what a person in each sector does day-to-day.
The best aroma-producing session was the meat production workshop in which students learned the various cuts of beef. Then they grilled and tasted each one, learning how each varies in texture and taste.
A discussion, led by mixed-animal veterinarian Dr. Fred Sick, caught the attention of Kinsey Bosma, a freshman from Sibley-Ocheyedan High School.
“I want to be a vet, a mixed-animal vet who works livestock and pets,” she said following Sick’s talk.
Sick noted that food safety “is the bottom-line job of veterinarians.”
To that end, he teaches food quality assurance classes and assure livestock units use effective biosecurity measures.
Sick said he typically starts his day at a big farrowing unit, but one day each week, he cares for small animals – puppies, cats and even snakes.
Sibley-Ocheyedan freshman Keyana Gust said she was impressed by Sick’s discussion of the four-stomach gut of ruminants, which she learned includes not only cows and cattle, but llamas, camels, sheep, deer, moose and alpacas.
“We talked about the insides (of ruminants),” Gust said, who said she wanted to go into dairy faming.
Caleb Freeman, a SOHS sophomore, said he has an open mind about his future career.
“It’s only about the job opportunity,” he said. “I’m open to pretty much anything ag. I’ll probably go into animal or plant genetics.”
Julie Walker, an instructor and a cow/calf specialist from SDSU, told students that South Dakota and Iowa both depend on getting safe beef and dairy products to consumers.
And, she said, research is still needed on how to deal with methane cattle emit into the air.
Walker said agriculture depends on financing to get the money it needs to help manage a farm and that communications is also key to U.S. agriculture.
“We want the truth and the facts out there,” Walker said, describing the roles of marketers and journalists in agriculture.
“We need people who understand ag products – seed producers, marketers, livestock specialists and quality PR (public relations).”
There other opportunities in feed, pharmaceuticals, livestock supply and equipment, Walker said.
The ag field needs people who can get international exposure for U.S. products, she said, as well as teachers with real world experience.
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