Category Archives: Youth

Judging the 2014 National Beef Ambassador Contest


2014 National Beef Ambassador Springdale Arkansas
Contestants at the 2014 National Beef Ambassador Contest in Springdale, Arkansas

I love to travel, even if it does mean riding in a small Delta puddle jumper with a grumpy flight staff. A few weeks ago, I had the really awesome opportunity to travel to Arkansas and be a judge for the 2014 National Beef Ambassador contest. I was never a participant in the program, but have seen the extent of their activities at national trade shows and coverage of their consumer outreach at events across the country.

23 states were represented, including Tennessee and Montana which both had junior (high school) and senior (college) participants. Tennessee’s Rachael Wolters made the senior team! The juniors are able to return to the competition. Seniors only have one year of competition. I wrote up a piece from the Montana perspective on the MSGA blog.

What is a National Beef Ambassador?
National Beef Ambassadors are passionate youth advocates for the beef community. The individuals on the National Beef Ambassador Team are the official youth representatives of the American National CattleWomen, Inc. [ANCW] and the beef industry. Each year a team of five National Beef Ambassadors is selected during a national contest to travel the United States sharing the story of beef from pasture to plate with consumers and students.

What is the purpose of the National Beef Ambassador Program?
The purpose of the program is to provide American consumers and students with positive nutritional, economic, and environmental stewardship information related to beef consumption and the beef industry. Participants learn how to effectively address issues and misconceptions, accurately share industry practices, and promote the versatile uses of beef.

Learn more in the FAQs on the Beef Ambassador page.

I had the opportunity to judge the Issues Response section. Contestants were given a hot topic article and were given 30 minutes to write a response to consumers in the form of a ‘Letter to the Editor’. One article focused on Meatless Mondays, while the other focused on environmental impact of beef cattle production. Some of those kids know their stuff! The BoviDiva (a.k.a. Dr. Jude Capper) even had her research on the topic mentioned several times.

Not only was this a great opportunity to catch up, enjoy a few meals and drinks with awesome friends from across the country (like Dairy Carrie, the REAL Beefman, Brandi “Buzzard”, and Mal the Beef Gal), I awesome got to meet some new folks and watch some amazing youth who will be the future ambassadors of our beef community. Even if these kids never win the competition, they are receiving some great training on what it means to be an advocate and outspoken for a cause you believe in.

There were a few kids who relied heavily on the coined PR phrases and industry lingo, and a few that still have some polishing up to do on being able to convey their message to consumers, but overall, it was a great group of kids. The team was chosen on Saturday night after a long day of competition and hearty steak supper. For those who didn’t make the team, I say press on. You don’t have to have a title or be a part of an official team to make a difference.

The agriculture community needs more folks like these youth in training to step up and be advocates for our way of life.

Powering through the afternoon with coffee and ice cream
Powering through the afternoon with coffee and ice cream
Thank you to the Arkansas Cattlewomen who hosted the event!
Thank you to the Arkansas Cattlewomen who hosted the event!
atlanta airport fried food
I’m a glutton for airport food. Especially these AWESOME fried, stuffed jalapenos at the Atlanta airport
Oh Delta, your small planes and tall people just don't match very well.
Oh Delta, your small planes and tall people just don’t match very well.
The Northwest Arkansas airport (XNA) has some awesome burgers
The Northwest Arkansas airport (XNA) has some awesome burgers
Advocacy on the go is pretty easy with a simple "I Heart Beef" on my carry-on
Advocacy on the go is pretty easy with a simple “I Heart Beef” on my carry-on

Dodge RAM pays Super Bowl tribute with “So God made a Farmer”


Dodge RAM So God Made a Farmer
“…who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply with smiling eyes when his son says he want to spend his life doing what dad does – So God made a Farmer”

The Super Bowl is the most watched television event of the year. By some estimates, more than half of the country watches the game. Many are just as excited, if not more, to see the commercial break ads that air during the broadcast. This year, Dodge RAM used their ad space to declare 2013 the Year of the Farmer.

The full 2:00 minute video, as seen on the Dodge RAM campaign site, features the voice of radio legend Paul Harvey. Until his passing in 2009, many Americans grew up listening to his News and Comment and waiting for The Rest of the Story from the native-Oklahoman who held his commitment to America’s heartland. In 1978, at the Future Farmers of America convention, Harvey recited a tribute to the American farmer that still holds very true today – “So God Made a Farmer.”

How has farming changed since 1978′s ‘So God Made a Farmer?’ Read more here.

Harvey’s narrative describes the characteristics we look for in dedicated farmers and caretakers of the land. The lines have gained more than 1 million views on YouTube, with several farmers and agriculture organizations putting their own images to the words. No matter your religious preference, the message certainly inspires reflection on the history of this country’s hard-working farmers and ranchers. The scenes take viewers through the generations of farmers and ranchers, from the old to the young, including many landscapes of modern agriculture.

And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said I need a caretaker- So God made a Farmer

God said I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk the cows, work all day in the field, milk cows again, eat supper then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board – So God made a Farmer

I need somebody with arms strong enough to wrestle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild; somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to await lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies, then tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon, and mean it – So God made a Farmer

God said I need somebody willing to sit up all night with and newborn colt, and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say maybe next year. I need somebody who can shape an axe handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make a harness out of hay wire, feed sacks and shoe straps, who at planting time and harvest season will finish his forty hour week by Tuesday noon and then, paining from tractor back, will put in another 72 hours – So God made a Farmer

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain, and yet stop in midfield and race to help when he sees first smoke from a neighbor’s place – So God made a Farmer

God said I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to yean lambs and wean pigs and tend to pink-combed pullets; who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadowlark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners; somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed, and rake and disk and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church. Somebody who would bale a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing; who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply with smiling eyes when his son says he want to spend his life doing what dad does – So God made a Farmer

This video is not necessarily a campaign for the Dodge RAM products, but rather a campaign to support the FFA Foundation (also known as Future Farmers of America) and their hunger initiative “Feeding the World – Starting at Home.”

So God Made a Farmer Dodge Ram
“I need somebody who can shape an axe handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make a harness out of hay wire, feed sacks and shoe straps…”

According to FFA Foundation CEO, Dwight Armstrong, RAM will donate up to $1,000,000 to the Foundation based on the views of the video and activity on the website. Individuals are encouraged to view the video and recommend it to others.

“Supporting this positive messaging about the American Farmer will raise awareness of the National FFA Organization within the general public while providing significant support to a major FFA initiative,” Armstrong stated in a letter to members and supporters.

Rural Americans took this ad space with extra gratitude and appreciation as farmers and ranchers have been working hard to share their stories with an America generations removed from the farm.

North Dakota farm mom, Katie Pinke, expressed the sentiment well in her blog post about the video.

“After watching the commercial, I feel like there is more hope in the world. Hope for agriculture, for family farmers, to feed a growing population, to connect everyday Americans to where their food comes from and to build a greater connected community for agriculture in America.”

Thanks goes to Dodge RAM for the recognition of America’s Farmers and Ranchers and for helping the efforts of such a great organization like FFA.

Other thoughts on the RAM video from farmers, ranchers, and the agriculture community

Youth Livestock Skills Competition


Earlier this week I told ya about all of the fun we had in the show ring at the Tennessee Junior Livestock Expo, but there was another competition at the event.

Raising and showing livestock involves many more skills outside of the show ring. This includes subjects like health, nutrition, handling, and of course knowing more about the product we ultimately produce – beef!

The livestock skills competitions at numerous events provides an opportunity for youth to competitively learn more about these different subjects. I remember participating in these events during my summers as a 4-Her. It was a great motivation to keep the learning wheels turning with a subject I care more about learning than English in a classroom.

I had the opportunity to help with this livestock skills competition, working all of the stations for the different age groups. Always works great as a refresher course for subjects we all need to be more familiar with.

Cattle Breed Identification

Our first station involved identifying different breeds of cattle. Today there are a number of cattle breeds that are commonly black or red hide. However, it’s really important to be able to identify the characteristics that make each breed unique. There were some rare breeds on the Senior level table. Here’s a great page from Oklahoma State with most of the cattle breeds in the U.S.

Showmanship Skills

For youth in the show ring with their livestock, it’s important to understand how animals respond to movement and interact with each other. At our second station we used an iPad and asked the kids to demonstrate the paths they would take to move their animal from one point in the ring to another. It’s also important for the kids to understand what a good position looks like for the animal. We had photos for the kids to identify the best positions for the animals’ legs and feet to be in the show ring. Setting up an animal in the correct position can make a different in how the judge perceives the animal’s quality.

Animal Health Identification

Just like a classroom of elementary students, congregating a large number of animals in one place can spread disease quickly. For this reason, most shows require a veterinarian to sign a health certificate prior to the show stating the animal is in good health and has been vaccinated against common animal diseases. It’s important for youth to understand what a health certificate means, where to find specific information on the certificate, and understand what the common diseases are in their respective animal species. At the third station we had an example health certificate and asked youth to answer related questions.

Feed Identification

We utilize a huge number of feeds when balancing nutrition for livestock. At the fourth station we asked youth to identify raw feedstuffs that are used in cattle diets. There were over 50 different feeds available and kids only had to match a handful. It’s also important that we be able to identify which feeds are good sources of energy, protein, fat, minerals, and whether they are classified as forages or grains. I was really surprised at the number of kids who couldn’t identify individual raw feeds and referenced only the branded and mixed feeds they give their animals.

Meat Identification

Wholesale Meat Cut Identification

The last station was divided into two sections geared at teaching youth more about our ultimate product when raising cattle – BEEF! In the first task, youth had to identify the location of wholesale meat cuts where carcass are divided. This includes things like the fore shank, chuck, round and flank.

The second part of the meat ID station was to identify retail meat cuts of the animal. This includes things like the 7-bone chuck roast, rib roast, rib eye steak, and t-bone. I support these types of tasks because it is very important to identify our role in production with the ultimate purpose of cattle – to feed other people. Teaching youth this from the start is vital in retaining that connection with where our food comes from, something so many in our country have forgotten.

Youth events like this are great for learning so many life skills and feeding a passion for raising livestock that so many your posses. While at the show I talked with a father who was there help his kids – the 6th generation of livestock exhibitors in the family. He has trophies from cattle shows in Tennessee dating back to 1911. That is something that makes me Agriculture Proud.

Are you volunteering with any youth learning activities this summer?

Did you participate in any livestock skills competitions as a kid? What are your favorite memories?

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Cattle at the Tennessee Junior Livestock Expo


The Ag Swag every exhibitor is looking for

Last week was a busy one for the cattle show folks here in Tennessee. We were in Murfreesboro, TN all week for the first week of the 41st annual Tennessee Junior Livestock Exposition (web, Facebook). Week 1 is all about the cattle. Week 2 is all about the sheep.

It was a busy week for those of us with the University Animal Science Department, preparing the entries, paperwork, arena, and awards. The best way to describe my feelings come Wednesday evening was “show week tired.” Those of you who have been there know exactly what I mean.

Monday was all about preparation and entries. Market steers and commercial heifers had to be weighed-in so the divisions could be divided into even classes of similar weight. Steers were also ultrasounded for ribeye area and fat thickness for the carcass competition (steer with the best measurements for potential carcass performance including weight, muscle and fat). Each day there was also a skill-a-thon for exhibitors, but I’ll share more on that later.

Tuesday everyone geared up for the steer and commercial heifer shows and showmanship competitions. Wednesday was full of registered heifer show and showmanship. In this show, each breed of cattle shows together, divided into classes based on the animal’s age. The showmanship competitions are a great opportunity for the exhibitors to be judged on their ability to show an animal in front of the judge. This sometimes includes swapping animals with another exhibitor in the ring.Everything wrapped up quickly and no one was injured.

The judges were from Texas and Kansas, both really thorough in their comments on each class. As we ran two rings, each judge had to share the mic between each class. It turned into a battle of the coaches and the guy from Kansas won out in control of the mic. But I think the judge from Texas really didn’t mind just talking one-on-one with each exhibitor.

It’s great to see so many youth involved in 4-H and FFA programs and competing in livestock competitions at the state level. As the judge from Kansas was explaining one of the cattle classes as the show wrapped up, he made some great comments that got my wheels turning.

Showing cattle is a great opportunity for youth to learn not only how to win, but also how to lose. These are vital life skills that many people miss out on if they don’t have to earn anything. Let the kids work. They’ll be better people for the experience.

Breakfast of champions at a cattle show and a regular occurrence for grad school students. Did someone say food?
1 of 3 tables of ribbons and plaques I had to plow through on show day
Champion Steer
Clean shavings

This week I’m at the TJLE lamb show in Cookeville, TN. I’m sharing photos and updates on my Social Media profiles. Be sure to follow along on Twitter using the #TNAg hashtag.

What is your favorite part of cattle shows?

Did you learn any valuable life lessons from showing livestock?

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