Following is a guest post from Marisa Linton. Marisa grew up showing and raising livestock, and currently lives on her family’s small farm in Mount Olive. She has shown animals at the N.C. State Fair for the past 14 years and is a past youth livestock scholarship recipient. She is an N.C. State University graduate, agricultural photographer and blogger.
Do you know how to tell the difference between a loin chop and a rib chop? Do you know what breed of sheep was developed at N.C. State University? Or what makes a good quality heifer? Every summer, youth from across the state gather for a three-day event that tests their livestock knowledge. These and hundreds more are the questions that youth learn to answer for the competitions. This year’s event was held July 20-22 at the N.C. State Beef Educational Unit in Raleigh.
Skillathon, livestock judging and quiz bowl competitions are held during the event, with an awards banquet to wrap it all up. Before the contest, though, the youth must practice. A lot.
In the months leading up to the contest, youth study at home and meet with their local extension agent to learn as much as they can about livestock. They learn breeds, uses of equipment, how to identify feed, the differences in meat cuts, general livestock knowledge, and how to judge the quality of livestock.
Eve Honeycutt, livestock agent for Lenoir and Green counties, takes her youth on many field trips in the community to prepare them for the contests.
“We visit the local meat department at our Piggly Wiggly and identify different cuts of meat,” said Honeycutt. “I have them examine the way the meat is cut, the shape of the bones, and how it should be cooked.
“Don’t be surprised if these kids know more about how to pick a good steak than most adults.”
They also traveled to local farms to judge livestock and discussed what to look for in a quality breeding or market animal. Youth peer over fence lines as Honeycut tells them what to look for. They also take the time to talk about different types of equipment used in livestock production while at the farm.
The group also took a trip to N.C. State University campus educational units, where they saw sheep being sheared, sows giving birth, and an ultrasound of a beef carcass. It was a jam-packed day that not only helped prepare the youth for competition but also allowed them to learn more about the practical side of the livestock industry.
“When they see the practical application of raising livestock, it makes the whole picture make sense,” said Honeycutt.
Summer days for these youth and others across the state are filled with cattle, fence lines, Piggly Wiggly field trips and trips to NCSU more so than trips to the beach. That doesn’t meant they aren’t having fun. These kids are doing something that they really love. They may be studying, but they are also in hog heaven. Pun intended.
Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on how all the summer field trips and study sessions pay off for contestants.