Ag students use real-world skills in contests

Burlon Wilkerson

Diboll FFA teams had a very successful day at the recent Area 9 Career Development Events competition. Four of the five teams ranked high enough to advance to state contests, which will be held this week and next week.
Career Development Events build on what is learned in agricultural classes and encourage members to put their knowledge into practice. These events answer the question, “When will I use this knowledge in the real world?”
According to Agriculture instructor and sponsor Kevin Swor, “These contests are an extension of the classroom.  They focus on real-life, useful skills.”
The Dairy Judging team of Cheyenne Swor, Tyler Allen, and Eric Concha placed third and will compete at Tarleton State University on Thursday, April 24.  During this event, team members complete a written exam, evaluate dairy cattle on physical characteristics, and analyze cows based on pedigree and herd record.
Allen said contestants have to know what to look for.
“We study workbooks that include pictures showing good and bad characteristics to identify,” he said.
Concha added, “All of us have done this contest before this year, but to be successful, you have to have good evaluation skills.  In addition, a lot of the test questions involve a knowledge of science, for instance in the area of nutrients.”
The Farm Business Management team also placed third, qualifying them for next week’s state contest.  Team members Omar Solis, Dylan Allen, Cristyn Nichols, and Caleb Stewart completed a written exam and solved farm-analysis problems as they applied management skills and economic principles to agriculture and agribusiness situations.
Solis was the high-point individual in the contest and received a belt buckle for his achievement.
“We focused a lot on concepts of business and money management,” he said.  “Material from economics class came in handy for this contest.”
The first thing that came to Nichols’ mind was having to know multiple definitions, and Allen said they had to use math in figuring ratios.
Kevin Swor emphasized the interconnection with other classes outside of Ag.
“I always try to call attention to how knowledge in other subjects is crucial in these events,” he said.
The Poultry Judging team of Amanda Faircloth, Hollie Wilsie, Drew Estrada, and Thomas Cheshire finished in fifth place, which advanced them to state.  In this event participants evaluate  production, processing, marketing and consumption of chickens, turkeys, processed products and eggs.  They complete a written exam, solve management problems, evaluate animals and products and identify various poultry products.
“We had to know the animals’ body parts, various diseases they might contract, and correct management of chickens and eggs,” Estrada said.  “Experience in the contest also helps when a person is shopping. We learned that ‘Grade A’ eggs really are the best.”
The Livestock Judging team was made up of Cheyenne Swor, Emily Thompson, Chloe Presnall, and Sarah Smith.  Their fifth-place finish also qualified them for state.  They evaluated beef cattle, sheep and swine for market values and desirable physical traits.  They also ranked livestock for breeding purposes using observed physical characteristics and performance data.
To prepare for the competition, participants watched videos from an online website which illustrated how to grade animals. In addition, they learned about the various grades of meat sold in grocery stores.  For instance, “USDA Select” is actually a fairly low grade.  “Low Choice” or “Prime” grades are both better.
“We learned how to determine values for muscle and fat and which ratios are best for meat quality,” Presnall said.
The Ag Mechanics team placed fourth and missed a state berth by only a few points.  Members included Royce Wilsie, Eric Concha, Stephen Badeaux and Tyler Allen.  They had to demonstrate their ability to work with one another while solving problems of both technical and mechanical nature.  They completed a written exam and demonstrated problem-solving and hands-on performance skills.
Wilsie said the event was truly a team activity.
“I had to get a professional to train me how to read a voltmeter, and then I taught my classmates.  At contest, we each did part of the written test, and then checked each other’s work,” he said.
Tyler Allen mentioned the amount of math involved in the contest, but stressed that the experience would be helpful to anyone planning or running a business operation.
Badeaux said that preparation involved hands-on experience, and that the ability to do handiwork around a home would be a product of participating in the event.
State contests next Friday and Saturday will be held at Sam Houston University and Texas A&M University.

Courtesy photo The Diboll FFA teams collected many pennants in the Area 9 Career Development Events competition.
Courtesy photo
The Diboll FFA teams collected many pennants in the Area 9 Career Development Events competition.