Thursday, October 17, 2013

4-H Animal Projects Develop Life Skills

Contact: Jeremy Elliott-Engel, 4-H Youth Development Specialist
Headquartered in Newton County
Tel: (417) 455-9500

NEOSHO, Mo. -- People raise animals for human use or benefits like food, clothing, work, research, companionship or entertainment.

Youth enrolled in Missouri 4-H use their animal projects for the same reasons and to develop life skills, according to Jeremy Elliott-Engel, a 4-H youth development specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

"Four areas that I draw on from my own seven years as a 4-H member raising market lambs and dairy goats are responsibility, financial management, self-confidence and understanding of the circle of life," said Elliott-Engel.

A 4-H member with an animal project is no longer responsible only for themselves. They are now required to be in tune to the needs of their project on things like food and nutrition, water, housing and health.

Even with short-term projects like market poultry, where a 4-H member raises the birds for only a few weeks, the youth learn to care for another living thing.

"As the child learns that they are in charge of the wellbeing of their animal, they will see success whether it is earning a blue ribbon at the county fair or having a happy and healthy animal to enjoy," said Elliott-Engel.

Members of 4-H also learn financial management when they have animal projects.

"From an early age, I remember standing at the kitchen table presenting my business plan to my parents so they (the investors) would let me buy chickens, a goat or market lambs. We rarely made money, but I knew where and why I lost money," said Elliott-Engel.

As 4-H members work with their projects, they are required to fill out annual financial records that document the success of the project. These records are worked on throughout the year and serve as the overall budget of the project.

"With a livestock project, youth have to face not only the joys of sharing an animal's life, but also face mortality as well. Youth see the ups and downs of the circle of life and grow to understand the natural world," said Elliott-Engel.

Members in 4-H that are enrolled in an animal science project are exposed to age-appropriate teaching strategies to help understand good production strategies through project curricula, experienced producers and Missouri Show Me Quality Assurance.

Residents of southwest Missouri can contact any of these 4-H youth development specialists for  information: Karla Deaver in Lawrence County at (417) 466-3102; Velynda Cameron in Polk County at (417) 326-4916; Bob McNary in Jasper County at (417) 358-2158; Amy Patillo in Howell County at (417) 256-2391; or Jeremy Elliott-Engel in Newton County at (417) 455-9500.


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