Preparing for livestock competitions goes
beyond the show for Loudon County 4-Hers.
circled around a table Wednesday morning as UT Extension ag agent John Goddard discussed all things
pigs - from identification to caring for and raising the livestock. The discussion was part of a
two-hour Pork QualityAssurance training and qualification session for youth.
All 4-Hers must be PQA certified to attend the upcoming annual 4-H State Market Hog
show, a competition that is all the buzz among Loudon County 4-Hers. Goddard said he believes the
qualification prepares students beyond the competition, getting them ready to be good stewards on
the farm and in society.
"I want them to be able to identify pigs. I want
them to be able to identify diseases, and I want them to learn how not to pick up diseases from
shows or other animals," Goddard said. "I want them to be good stewards of our livestock, and I
want them to learn that using antibiotics is necessary in some cases, but we can use good
management practices to avoid using antibiotics."
Students also delved into
herd management, cleaning equipment, labeling retail cuts and identifying pigs by ear notching.
"My daughter, she started in the fourth grade, and she showed for eight years. I
think she knows more just because of this test they have to do at the show than I knew in animal
science after I got my four-year degree at UT. I really think she did. It's a good learning tool,"
About 20 Loudon County 4-Hers will head to Murfreesboro on
Jan. 22 for this year's hog show, where students will have to pass written, showmanship and
livestock exams, including tests on bone identification. Goddard said the qualification adds to the
youth's educational experience. The 10 4-Hers at Wednesday's qualification will show about 30
"If any of them decide to take an animal science class in college it
will be a breeze for them because they have had so much training and all these years of it,"
"Pigs are such a small part of what these kids do. It will
help them with their dogs and their cats or their cattle, horses or sheep. This program carries all
the way through," he added.
Lenoir City High School student and 4-Her
Madison Moats, who has competed in the state show three years, said the qualification and
competition is not only a "good learning opportunity" but also provides camaraderie.
"We are learning responsibility. We are learning how to take care of something. We are
learning how to not just keep something," Moats said. "It's not like a game where you just have to
keep it nice. We are trying to keep something alive and help it to grow and be the best that it can
be so that we can do well in competition."
The upcoming competition will be
tougher this time around for Moats, who will compete at the senior high level.
"As you get older maybe less people do it, but more people are more serious about it,"
she said. "Your competition peer wise is harder. We have different levels. It's a big deal to know
you've come that far."
Emily Johnson has a similar view of the competition.
"If you win or something it makes you really proud that you've accomplished something," she
The qualification is not new to Loudon County, but Goddard pushed the
educational envelope on Wednesday's group of 4-Hers. To qualify, the 4-Hers had to pass a
30-question test. Goddard used an advanced version of the test.
just want them to meet the minimum requirements," he said. "I have a lot of pride in this pig
program, and I want these kids to know more than the surrounding counties know. I want to have the
smartest group of kids here, so I'm making this really tougher on them than it has to be for them
to be certified. ... Loudon County is a county that these other counties dread to see coming. We do
From now until the competition, students will be grooming and
training their livestock and reviewing test materials.
"I take pride in the
competition. When they're giving these test scores out at the state contest they give them medals
and medallions. I'll look up there and I'll say, 'Well, there's my kid and there's my kid. There's
my kid.' I may have had three or four or five in the top 10 in the state. That's when I swell up
with pride," Goddard said.
All U.S. pork producers must be certified
through PQA training and testing every two years. Goddard said the certification "promotes safe and
"They want everybody that is dealing with pigs to know
what they're doing," he said.