Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"I believe in the future of agriculture.."

On May 21, 2015 my school, Metcalfe County High School, held our annual FFA Banquet. Being a freshman, this was my first one and it was awesome. 

What is FFA?
FFA (formerly known as Future Farmers of America) was founded in 1928 when 33 students from 18 different states came together in Kansas City, MO to start the organization. Since then, FFA has grown to all 50 states and reaches out to over 600,000 members. It's not just for students wanting to be farmers. Anyone with the desire to enhance their leadership skills and pursue a career in agriculture will benefit tremendously from the FFA.

Our 2014-2015 Retiring Officers (L-R: Advisor Josh Jones, Treasurer Audrey Young, Secretary Rayanna Boston, President Kensey Edwards, Vice Pres. Renee Judd, Reporter Harley Hawkins, Sentinel Zach Jenks)
Our 2015-2016 Officer Team (L-R: Advisor Josh Jones, Treasurer Audrey Young, Secretary MaKenzy Avery, President Harley Hawkins, Vice President Rayanna Boston, Reporter Kelsie Hodges, Sentinel Max Hensley)

All the kids in both of these pictures represent Metcalfe County High School and FFA in the best ways possible. Not only do we have awesome students, our principal is pretty awesome too. Mrs. Kelly Bell was the keynote speaker at the banquet and did a tremendous job talking about the importance of agriculture and how hard farmers have to work to put food on the table. Being a farmer's daughter herself, Mrs. Bell pretty well knew what she was talking about.
Principal Kelly Bell speaking on the influence agriculture had on her and how important it is.

Greenhand Degree
Freshmen receive their Greenhand Degree in FFA. This is the first degree you receive as an FFA member. To be a recipient of this you must be enrolled in an ag class, learn and explain the FFA Creed, describe and explain the colors and their meaning along with the FFA emblem, demonstrate proper use of official dress, know FFA history and have access to a FFA manual.
Freshmen receiving their pins for the Greenhand Degree. (L-R: Me, Zeak McIntyre, Barkley Firkins, Danielle Richardson and Warren Summers)
A close up of what the pin looks like.
Chapter Degree
Sophomores receive their Chapter Degree. To receive this they must have received their Greenhand Degree, completed 180 hours of ag ed, participated in at least three chapter functions, and earned at least $150 or worked 45 hours through their SAE (supervised agricultural experience).

Chapter Degree Recipients (L-R: Max Hensley, MaKenzy Avery,
 Kelsie Hodges, Kyle Coomer and Taylor Froedge)
We also had members exhibit talent and had recognition of honorary members. Each senior officer picked someone who had influenced them at some point and encouraged their work in FFA.
Molly Matney singing "At Last". She won with this song at the
regional level and will be competing at state.

Renee Judd playing the piano.
Kensey Edwards and her honorary member, Terry Trowbridge.
Zach Jenks and honorary member, Lynn Hawkins.
Renee Judd and honorary member, Alyssa Wilson.

Floyd Shirley and Rayanna Boston singing "Precious Lord Take My Hand"
I recited the creed during the Greenhand ceremony.

Star Greenhand
One last thing I would like to share with you is the award I received that I'm pretty proud of. I was honored to be chosen for the Star Greenhand award this year. This award goes to the most active first-year member with a strong supervised agricultural experience and has demonstrated a lot of leadership. I can't thank the ones enough that have helped me and pushed me to do my best always. I hope this is just the start of my success in ag and that I continue to do big things!
Thanks Mr. Jones for all your help!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dairy U: Know Before U Show

On May 16th, Kentucky 4-H Dairy held a clinic for dairy showmen across the state to learn the fundamentals of showing. The program was great for dairymen of all ages. The younger attendants learned useful show skills while the older ones caught up with friends or ran a station. I was able to gather a few pics from some friends (amongst the excitement I forgot to snap a few, imagine that!).

Our local 4H Extension Agent, Amy Branstetter, taught us how to tattoo and tie our calves. We all received our own rope halter when we accomplished our slip knot. She even had an awesome demo with tattoo guns and toothpaste. Yes, toothpaste!
National Ayrshire Queen, Kailey Barlow (the pretty one in the blue jacket), taught us the essentials to packing a show box. Kailey is one of my best friends and definitely a good person to be learning from. You'll probably be seeing more of her this summer. :)

My Ag teacher and FFA Advisor, Mr. Josh Jones (the guy in the white t-shirt), has been showing and fitting dairy cows for the majority of his life. He taught us the basics of clipping and some tips he has picked up along the way. He is definitely one of the best!

There were also other stations in the clinic that covered how to feed, wash, register and show your animal that I didn't get a picture of but they were still very informational and taught skills every showman needs to know.
A huge shout out to Tim, Wanda and Blake Quiggins for letting us use their awesome facility, Burley Fields Livestock Center, in Horse Cave and to Ethan Berry, our new Dairy Coordinator of Show and Fair Promotion, for doing a great job putting this together along with everyone else that pitched in!
If you have any questions about our Dairy U Clinic or would like to start your own in your area, feel free to contact me at brileetucker@gmail.com!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Real Truth

"Mother cows on dairy farms are repeatedly impregnated and forced to produce milk for humans, and their calves are taken away from them, often to suffer the same fate. The only way to stop this cruelty is to go dairy-free."

This is the caption for a video PETA posted on their blog sometime ago. I felt the need to go find it after watching a movie in my health class called Food Inc. This movie is supposed to portray the "unflattering side of the agricultural industry" but what it really does, like PETA, is just tell you bits and pieces of what goes on everyday on a mass production farm. The video is a perfect example of hiding the truth. So let me break down this video caption and tell you what really happens,

"Repeatedly impregnated"
Dairy farmers artificially inseminate their cows to get them pregnant. This is the procedure of thawing a frozen straw of semen collected from a bull (that process doesn't hurt the bull either), sticking it into a insemination gun (not a real gun) and inserting it into the reproductive tract of the cow to get her pregnant. It's just like natural mating but without all the extra bull, get it? Taking the bull out of the equation reduces the stress on a cow from having him follow her around and it also reduces the risk of injury to the cow when a bull would normally mount her. It's an easier and safer way to keep the circle of life going on a farm.

"Forced to produce milk for humans"
Dairy cows produce milk on their own, humans just find a way to use it. Yes, it is fine to leave a calf on a cow to drink the milk but on a commercial dairy farm you're producing milk for market so you take the calf off. Both animals continue to grow happy and healthy. Before the momma cow is sent back to the milk barn the calf gets what is called colostrum. It's the first milk given off the cow to the calf and contains extra nutrients for the baby's first few days. The calf is then given warm formula milk everyday so it gets all the nutrients it needs.

"The calves are taken away from them, often to suffer the same fate"
Baby calves on dairy farms get special treatment, especially the heifers (girls) because they're the next generation of the herd. They are taken off their mother and put into their own individual hutch or pen with their own bucket of grain, fresh straw and clean water. This is safer than keeping the calf with their mom at the milk barn for these reasons: they could get stepped on and they cannot compete with the older and bigger cows for food and water. Also, manure is the biggest disease risk to baby calves that's why their immune system needs a clean, personal hutch. Our bull calves are often kept for a couple of weeks then sold to other farmers for breeding or beef production.