Sharpening your swine knowledge during the “off season”

Fair is over and next year’s pigs are not on the ground yet, so what is a 4-her to do? It is the perfect time to expand your knowledge and skills!

The cyclical nature of a 4-H swine project: the first part of the year brings baby pigs, spring brings feeder pig sales, summer is very busy with swine project work and fairs, and then after all that comes the doldrums of fall and early winter-- repeat. This calm time of year is known as the “off season” for many 4-H families that do not have breeding stock to care for. While those youth are anxious to get started on next year’s swine project, they must wait until spring before their animals arrive. However, that does not mean that 4-H youth and volunteers can put away their boots and notebooks until spring. This time of year is the ideal time for youth to focus on enhancing knowledge, expanding learning horizons, and sharpening skills. The following are just a few fun activities that Michigan State University Extension recommends 4-H youth in the swine project area to do during this time of year that will help keep them active and sharp.

  • Visit a commercial swine farm. Commercial swine farms are a great experience for young people to see.  Michigan’s pork production is a strong part of our state’s economy and understanding how pigs are raised in a commercial setting can really help expand youths’ knowledge of pigs, housing systems, and the pig industry.
  • Tour a meat packing facility. Michigan has several meat processors that allow visitors. Understanding how pork is processed and turned into an important protein source for Michigan families helps young people see the industry from farm to fork, while learning a lot about meat and food science along the way.
  • Visit with a veterinarian. Seeing a veterinarian at work is exciting. It can help youth understand more about animal health and think about future career choices.
  • Hold your own swine skillathon or quiz bowl and have youth sharpen their skills by studying up on pig breeds, nutrition and animal management.
  • Have a pig farmer or someone associated with the swine industry come to your 4-H club and talk about what they do.
  • Have 4-H members pick a topic related to the swine industry, research it and present their findings.
  • Review the numbers from your record book or reflect on past experiences and identify your goals for this coming year.  Write them down and share them with others.
  • Attend the 4-H Veterinarian Science Teen and Adult Volunteer workshop or the 4-H Beef, Sheep, and Swine Teen and Adult Leaders Workshop at Kettunen Center.

There are many ways for young swine enthusiasts to stay engaged during late fall and winter. It is often this time of year that helps young people grow as they have new experiences that broaden their interests and help them plan and prepare for next year’s swine project. Stay engaged and have fun!

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