Indiana 4-H hosted a pilot project where 346 youth from 19 counties participated in the Youth for the Quality Care of Animals (YQCA) online education program. YQCA is a non-for-profit organization that developed an online course to deliver a consistent, accurate, and evidence-based curriculum to youth participating in livestock projects. As a part of the pilot project in Indiana, youth reported that they gained knowledge about quality assurance principles. At the end of the pilot study, 80% of the youth participants said that they plan to change their animal management practices with their 4-H animals. By including the YQCA online program alongside 4-H animal projects, this is the ideal pairing to help educate youth about quality assurance and their animal’s impact on the food chain. Aaron Fisher, Indiana 4-H Animal Science Specialist, had an opportunity to interview one of the YQCA board members. Karna Dam is an Extension Educator in Nebraska and has been a part of the YQCA organization since the beginning. This interview helps to share more about the YQCA program and its benefits to the Indiana 4-H animal and livestock projects.
Aaron Fisher (AF): Hi Karna, please tell us a little bit about your background and experience.
Karna Dam (KD): I have been involved with Nebraska Extension for about 28 years doing 4-H and youth education. During that time, part of my master’s program was on quality assurance and the program’s effectiveness of education. I have invested a lot of years into looking at better ways for educating youth on the quality care of animals. Nebraska had a course for the last five years that was online and gave us an opportunity to explore whether online education worked well with youth age 8 to 18. As a result, a national Youth for the Quality Care of Animals (YQCA) online course has been developed for a consistent message nationally for all youth exhibitors age 8 - 21.
AF: Can you tell us about the purpose of YQCA and why was it developed?
KD: Sure, YQCA was developed in a partnership with Extension educators and specialists involved in Animal Science from 10 universities that already had livestock quality assurance courses available to their youth. We were joined by industry by predominantly the National Pork Producers, National Beef Cattle Association, National Milk Producers, and a few other organizations that have contributed to the importance of wanting to be able to share a consistent message with youth exhibitors on proper care and management of animals
Our overarching goal for livestock quality assurance is to ensure to the consumer that there is a higher level of expectation for a quality product to reach them in the grocery store, so that they have a greater confidence in what they are placing on the table for their families.
-Karna Dam, Nebraska Extension & YQCA Board member
AF: What industry support are you seeing for YQCA?
KD: The primary industry partners are National Pork Board, National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), National Milk Producers Federation, American Sheep Association, American Rabbit Breeders Association, and the National Western Stock Show. Representatives from each of these industry partners do hold a place on the YQCA board and have been extremely instrumental in the development of the curriculum, the content of what that curriculum should pertain to so that is matches what the adult version of what quality assurance expects. As well as, being financial contributors to the development of the curriculum.
AF: How much does the program cost?
KD: There are two opportunities for youth to participate. One way is through the overall online version where the youth complete the entire course online. That is a twelve dollar fee that the youth we pay upon enrollment in their course through 4HOnline. States are also able to offer an instructor-led training where Extension Professionals, FFA Advisors, or veterinarians are certified as instructors for this course and they can do that face-to-face. The training for that is three dollars per youth and again they pay that upon enrollment through 4HOnline.
AF: This sounds like an important program, what kind of participation have you seen in this first year of YQCA?
KD: In the first year, after launching in April, we had 33 states that had youth go through for total right under 4900 youth.
94% of Indiana 4-H youth who participated in the YQCA pilot program reported that they learned that they can have an impact on the livestock industry by what they do with their 4-H animal.
AF: Can you tell us what updates to YQCA that we might be able to expect in the next couple of years?
KD: We launched the first year of YQCA in the first part of April 2017. The next series will be launched in early March 2018. And then we will have years three and four available following that. Each year is an independent course, so the youth will not be repeating information necessarily as they are in the same age division. There will also be a test-out option that will be added in 2018 for intermediate-senior and young adults that will allow them to not have to go through to complete the entire module.
The Future of YQCA in Indiana 4-H
New for 2018, to exhibit beef cattle, dairy cattle, swine, sheep, meat goats, dairy goats, poultry and rabbits, 4-H members must be certified through the YQCA program.
While this is a new requirement, it should not be viewed as just another rule, but rather as an important educational opportunity for 4-H livestock members. Making this an exhibition requirement is how we are ensuring that 4-H members learn about quality assurance, but it really has nothing to do with animal exhibition. The reason we are requiring YQCA is for youth to learn best management practices with their animals.
Goals of Requiring YQCA in Indiana 4-H
- Ensure that Indiana 4-H livestock members are more prepared to be ambassadors for animal agriculture in their role as youth livestock exhibitors
- Ensure animals from the Indiana 4-H livestock program are treated with the utmost care
- Ensure that Indiana 4-H livestock members are contributing to a safe and wholesome food supply
For more information about face-to-face trainings, 4-H members should contact their county Extension office.
The livestock industry is experiencing significant negative publicity because of animals from youth livestock programs. Are you ready to help the livestock industry take on this challenge by ensuring 4-H youth are learning to ethically raise and exhibit their animals? You can help these perceptions by being a part of the solution.
Aaron Fisher is a 4-H Extension Specialist for Purdue Extension. He provides leadership to the Indiana 4-H Animal Science projects and develops opportunities for Indiana 4-H youth to learn about animals and agriculture.
Karna Dam is a 4-H Extension Educator for Nebraska Extension. She has been involved with Nebraska Extension for over 20 years where she has supported programming in agricultural literacy, STEM, college and career readiness, and volunteer development. She is an active board member for the Youth for the Quality Care of Animals (YQCA) program.
Arin Weidner is a 4-H Extension Specialist for Purdue Extension. She supports Indiana 4-H programming with the creation of technology-facilitated curriculum and learning opportunities through partnerships with Extension staff and faculty.