4-H programs are grounded in the belief that youth learn best by doing. Youth complete hands-on projects in areas like science, health, agriculture and civic engagement, in a positive environment where they receive guidance from adult mentors and are encouraged to take on proactive leadership roles. Youth can concentrate on one focus area or they can try a variety of programs throughout their 4-H experience.
Animal projects are some of the longest-running and easily identifiable aspects of 4-H, but they are much more complex than what happens in the show ring. Many people may not realize the valuable skills that 4-H’ers receive as a result of participating in these projects.
4-H animal projects help youth learn about the life cycle, growth and feeding of animals. In the process, they learn about animal selection and evaluation, nutrition and feeding, animal health, daily care, reproduction and marketing.
Animal projects also help 4-H’ers build or improve upon important life skills including hard work, responsibility, critical thinking and decision-making. 4-H’ers also learn leadership skills, communication with others, organizational skills and record keeping.
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As part of these programs, young people are encouraged to practice animal welfare and responsibility. 4-H’ers are encouraged to take ownership of their project and be responsible for the animal’s daily care, while receiving oversight from an adult volunteer. 4-H’ers learn how to provide adequate feed, water and shelter to their animal and give the animal opportunities for normal socialization. As the animal grows, young people can take pride in knowing they helped raise a healthy animal.
A few local youth were involved in 4-H livestock projects this year and here’s what they had to say:
- Audrey Harwell, 14, participated in the 4-H steer project - "In the steer project, I learned patience and perseverance."
- Garrett Harwell, 12, participated in the barrow project -"The hog project was very fun and the meat from the pigs was delicious."
- Joseph Smith, 12, participated in the rabbit project – “I learned about the breeds of rabbits, how to feed them and how important it is to keep records to keep them healthy.”
Whether raising animals for food/fiber or as pets, responsible livestock and pet owners know that responsible animal care is the right thing to do. Practicing compassionate animal care is to everyone’s advantage. Not only do consumers demand it, but healthy, well-cared-for animals have a better quality of life and are better producers and pets.
A Livestock Project Clinic will be held Feb. 22 at the Orangeburg County Fairgrounds from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. This event is free and will be an opportunity for youth to explore all the animal projects in the 4-H program. To learn more about 4-H or about this event, please contact Glenna Mason, 4-H Youth Development Agent, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-534-6280.
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