4-H and FFA members, take note: You are an ambassador for animals and agriculture.

That is one of the main points being shared within the new Animal Welfare for Youth training sessions. These workshops are the replacement for the Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) program wherein all the species of livestock are being represented. A large gathering of young people was held during the 2018 Farmer’s Day event in Coldwater, MI where over 280 members received their certification so they can show animals at the county fair.

Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) staff, as well as other professionals, are being trained to present the new program, providing the members with updated information concerning the care of the animals and current issues in the agricultural world. Many Michigan counties have required their members take the classes or are planning to.

While PQA was sponsored by National Pork Producers, the new curriculum is being developed by them and other livestock organizations, providing a full spectrum of information about animal welfare before, during and after the fair. The Purdue Extension staff in Indiana is working with Youth Quality Care of Animals (YQCA), an online presentation of similar facts. This program does cost but can be more convenient for college students who aren’t able to attend the public workshops.

The presentations focus on the areas of five basic needs: freedom from hunger, discomfort, pain/disease, fear/distress, and the freedom to express normal behaviors. Each one was expounded upon and simple ways to help keep the animals comfortable were shared.

Hunger seems like it would be an easy one to remember and practice yet with the various feed options available, it can be difficult to know what is good for your animals. Researching and reading can help owners make informed decisions to do the best by their livestock.

The discomfort aspect refers to the condition of the housing, weather, and keeping the animal’s body temperature regulated. Taking care of the bedding, replacing, and keeping it fresh assists in relieving an animal’s discomfort. Supplying an appropriate heating or cooling source during extreme weather will be appreciated by the livestock.

Pain and disease can be dealt with with a regular plan of worming and yearly checkups with a veterinarian. With daily interaction, owners can observe any difference in behaviors, eating habits, and weight loss that may be caused by disorders.

Animals depend upon people, therefore it is the owner’s responsibility to care for them in the most productive way helping the livestock reach their full potential. This will deal with the aspect of fear and distress. Gaining the animal’s trust will go a long way to alleviate this issue.

Understanding animal’s normal behavior patterns will assist an owner in the daily care and future plans. Again, research and regular interaction will aid in the continued and growing knowledge of the animals, specifically the ones in the barn.

While these programs are geared toward young people, adults have additional opportunities to learn about new research and information concerning the care and trends in livestock production. During Farmer’s Day and other events, MSUE staff is also offering presentations for interested parties. These workshops are quite informative and helpful with resources offered for future questions and issues. These are additional opportunities to network with other livestock experts and producers sharing experiences and knowledge. The Farmer’s Advance weekly calendar contains some of these opportunities.

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