Last Fall, 5th Grade teacher Carol Budde, from the Walton Rural Life Education Center started something new. She enrolled her students in the 4-H Swine Project. These 22 youth engrossed themselves in learning more about the swine industry.
Extension helped with this project. All of the youth had to be pork quality assured plus trained in order to be able to sell their animals at the project’s completion. 4-Hers account for slightly more than 1% of the swine raised for meat production, therefore they have to maintain the same standards of production as the rest of the industry.
This class learned all about best management practices, balancing feed rations, how to give shots, record information, and much more prior to February. February was the expected arrival of the class’s baby pigs. Unfortunately, complications occurred and they were left “pigless”.
Since their goal was to compete in the county fair, they had a very narrow window to locate new pigs. Extension extends across a large territory, and was successful in locating 2 pigs from the Leon Dunn family in Stafford County, and 1 pig from Mike Weber located here in Harvey County.
The class was excited! They had their pigs. They built a pen with assistance from volunteers, provided shelter, food and water. They learned to estimate their weight by measuring the animal’s heart girth. They tagged the pigs by the 4-H deadline and were on target for the fair.
Only one youth could show each animal at the fair. To determine which youth got this opportunity, they wrote essays on the project and were judged to see who got to exhibit the animals. These youth also had to work with the animals weekly during the summer and still provide the care for the animals.
Fair came and the class was well represented by the 3 chosen youth. The class even built an educational booth highlighting their learning experiences. The pigs were scheduled to be auctioned for premium dollars and then floored with the other animals to livestock buyers. From there the animals are trucked to a packer and processed into meat products showcased in the local grocery stores. All money received would be used to pay the project’s bills and hopefully have enough over that another class could enroll in the project.
This would have been a great ending for the story, but luckily the story continued. The Walton Rural Life Center has been supportive of using locally grown products on their school menu. Wouldn’t it be great if these swine could be processed and then used in the school lunch program? This would be great but the project needed to receive the money to offset their expenses, and Extension by law can’t fund things like this. However it can help identify local people and organizations who might be interested in helping.. The Kansas Pork Association agreed to pay the processing fees to process two of the animals. John Esau from the Walton Bank, and Richard Drake from Citizens State Bank agreed to donate the “floored” dollars to the school’s swine project. Mike Weber provided the transportation of the animals to Krehbiel’s Meat processing. Krehbiel’s worked closely with the school to determine how best to process the meat so that it can be easily used by the school.
So the real ending of the story is these youth learned about 4-H, grew in their knowledge of livestock production, shared what they knew with the general public, and will now experience swine production from “farm to plate”.