Hopefully you have a chance to get out to the Lee Regional Fair this week and enjoy the wonderful sights, sounds and smells that make it such an enjoyable experience for the entire family. Through my job as an Extension Agent, I am fortunate enough to spend quite a bit of time at the fair. One of my favorite experiences each year is helping out with the various animal shows that went on during the week in the Livestock Barn. These shows included animals such as chickens, goats, steers and heifers.
But as much fun as it is to watch the animals during these shows, my attention is often drawn to the exhibitors. I am continually impressed with the hard work that these young people have put into their animal projects, and the skills they have developed throughout the process. Anyone can lead an animal into a show ring, but not everybody can describe in detail how to care for the animal, what feed they use, list the parts of the animal, explain where different cuts of meat come from, or answer any of the other tough questions a judge might ask them.
One of the areas that we focus on in the 4-H program is the development of life skills in our young people. These are the valuable skills that 4-H members will be able to utilize as they grow older and head off to college and later look for employment. The wonderful thing about these animal projects is that they’re chock full of life skills and other teachable moments.
Keeping track of your animal’s growth and progress requires detailed record keeping. Learning about the vaccinations your animal needs involves a variety of science disciplines such as chemistry and biology. Anatomy skills are developed in learning the parts of an animal. Confidence is gained throughout the project and while showing the animal in competition. Responsibility and discipline are also skills that are developed by regularly feeding, cleaning and caring for your animal. These are just a few of the life skills young people can develop through working with animals, and there are no doubt many, many others.
I strongly encourage parents to get their kids involved with animals in some way. There is a great deal that can be learned through the relationship between a young person and an animal that they feed, train and care for. In Lee County, we currently have two horse clubs and a livestock club, each of which is open to the public. Please call 775-5624 for more information on how to get your child involved today!
Bill Stone is 4-H Youth Development Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.