Caring comes first

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Purdue Extension educators statewide are preparing children and youth to be ambassadors for animal agriculture. During the 2018 4-H program year, Extension reached 19,540 members through the 4-H Youth for the Quality Care of Animals (YQCA) program.

YQCA focuses on producer food safety, animal well-being and character development in teaching those aged 8 to 21 about quality assurance for different livestock species. Starting in 2018, Indiana youth had to be YQCA-certified to exhibit animals at the Indiana State Fair or a county fair.

Extension professionals nationwide developed the annual program for 4-H and other groups in collaboration with the livestock industries. A 2017 grant from the Indiana State Department of Agriculture enabled Extension to pilot the learning modules in Indiana and provide early input.

Now youth can complete the one-hour program online or in training sessions conducted by Extension educators in every Indiana county. More than two-thirds of participants so far chose in-person instruction, which allowed Extension to creatively build other activities around it.

In Perry County, for example, YQCA was incorporated into an animal science day camp over spring break. But the camp wasn’t just for livestock exhibitors, says Indiana 4-H Youth Development Educator and YQCA instructor Cathy Boerste, who taught the course with Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator Sara Dzimianski. Extension educators hoped to spark interest in 4-H among the less experienced third- through sixth-graders who enjoyed sheep shearing, goat milking, walking a feeder calf or bottle-feeding a special care lamb.

“We did some really cool hands-on activities to supplement the YQCA PowerPoint,” Boerste says. “Doing the activities makes the program more interesting for the kids.”

Indiana 4-H members were trained in the YQCA program’s first year.