What showing livestock and farming has taught me by: Erica Harrell

Hello! My name is Erica Harrell and I am from Roseville Illinois. I am currently a junior at Western Illinois University with a major in Ag Business and minor in Animal Science. I have always had a passion for agriculture and would like to talk about some of the things I have been inspired by in the agriculture industry.

Ever since I was a little girl my favorite thing was to be outside on the farm with my family. I was never that into sports when I was younger because all I wanted to do when I was not in school was be outside on the farm. Agriculture has always been my favorite. To be honest, I don’t know where I would be today if I wasn’t involved in agriculture because it has taught me so many different things.

One of the biggest things that showing livestock and farming has taught me is that you can do anything that you put your mind to. If you would have told me when I was younger that I would be competing at national cattle and pig shows and doing very well I wouldn’t have believed you at all. I was that girl that would love to be around the commercial cattle and pigs, but I didn’t want anything to do with the showing part because I didn’t want to be like anyone else in my family and wanted to just do the farming part. At age 9 my mom got my first Angus show heifer named Sophie and I absolutely loved it. From that age until now I have showed a couple each year and the older I got the more competitive I got. When I look back to when I was younger until now I  have learned that anyone can do anything that want to as long as they work at it. You can do things other people do to and still not be like the other person. People can have the same hobbies and attack it at different ways.

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When  I look back to what showing and farming has taught me a big factor of what my mom has always told me is “You get out what you put in”. When she told me that I really thought long and hard how true that is in anything you do in this world. The summer of 2016 is when she told me that. It was my first year going to the World Pork Expo and I was really nervous, but knew that I had put countless hours in the barn and walking the pigs. My York barrow and I had made it to grand drive and I was in shock. It was my first year there and so I wasn’t planning to do that well. We get in grand drive and the judge says on the microphone almost exactly what mom was saying to me “Yes stock shows are about having fun, but in all reality they teach kids what hard work is”. After that moment when they had us stop in the middle of ring to give our hogs a break I thought about how showing really does teach us all work ethic. You can’t be successful if you don’t work at it.  After that my York was selected grand champion overall purebred and I was in shock. When I look back today what my mom said and the judge said on the microphone is 100% related to life. We don’t get things given to us and I am fortunate to have been taught that you have to work hard to be successful.

 

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Two of the biggest things that I’ve learned in farming and showing is independence and teamwork. For example at my age I am now driving an auger cart and also drive the truck and trailer to shows when no one can go with me. I’ve gotten taught as a woman sometimes you have to step up and do some of things on a farm you never though you would do. I’m glad my family has taught me how to do things like driving an auger cart and truck and trailer because I can do things on the farm when there needed to be done. It’s taught me patience and that sometimes you need to slow down and take your time.

To be honest I could talk for days on what living on a farm and showing livestock has taught me, but the skills that I learn and still am learning make me who I am today. I’m so fortunate to be able to have grown up in an agriculture family.IMG_6073

Growing up with agriculture has really made an impact on my life. I am fortunate to have learned what I have and excited to see what the future holds for me.

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Life After the Show Ring

Since I can remember I have always spent close to all of my time in a barn. When I was young it was in a cattle barn, while my brother was showing. And at first I started out in the same barn showing cattle but by the end of my first year I wanted to try something different. Little did my family, and mainly my brother know that showing pigs would become my passion. By 2009 I told my brother I wanted to start raising our own show pigs. From the beginning it was mainly to be able to say we raised the hogs that I was showing and competing with, and if you asked me six years ago what my goal was? I would have told you to win state fair with a barrow we raised. After walking out of the show ring for the last time as a junior member this past August, I still have the same goal but its changed a little bit now.

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Photo from: Nick Bangerts facebook. Taken by: Mapes Photography

I never would have thought that being done showing would actually be nice, but this past summer it finally hit me that I was ready to be done, and just wanted to help others. My brother always said ” I would rather be behind the gate, then in the ring”. Until the past couple summers when I really started to help other families, I thought he was crazy, but I soon realized he was right! It’s actually fun to work with a young exhibitor throughout the summer and then see them have the success with livestock that we raised or helped them find.

After being done showing, I really think it’s important to be able to help the younger generation the same way I got help from so many breeders and role models. This goes with making those visits throughout the summer to help with feed rations, walking and just the everyday daily care. And it’s not about doing it for them but helping them make steps in the right direction to have the most success that they can. This doesn’t just apply for hogs but all livestock and or even sports. Making a positive impact on youth helps them be better for the future.

One of the best leaders in the livestock industry to me, Dan Hoge has always said that “it’s not over, your role has just changed”. I couldn’t be happier that I have different role now. I still have the same goal of raising the grand barrow at a state fair, but now I just want to be the one standing behind the gate helping someone else do it!

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My name is Nick Bangert and I am from Blue Grass, Iowa.  I’m a senior at Western Illinois University, but before attending WIU, I graduated from Black Hawk East with my associates in Ag Business and have been apart of the Livestock Judging team at both colleges. I have grown up on a small grain and livestock farm. My future goals after graduation this spring is to move back home, obtain a job in an Ag related field and continue to raise livestock. Thank you for reading my blog.

 

Thankful For Being From A Farm Family

Every day I am thankful I was born into a farming family. Being raised on a family farm with both crops and livestock has taught me not only many life lessons but has also shaped me into who I am today. I am sure many of you have read similar articles about why kids are thankful for being a farm kid but it is the truth. Being involved with the agriculture industry at a young age teaches true responsibility, discipline, hard work, how to care or tend to another living being, and to adapt to any situation. Whether the job is vaccinating cattle or hogs, putting out hay, spreading manure, or even weaning calves rain or shine you work until the job is done. Growing up on our farm, I have made many memories and never experienced any dull moments.

 

In the fall, you can ride in the tractor hauling grain. When winter comes, we are busy thawing out waters and bedding down the barns. After spring finally arrives, we

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Picture taken by Susan Creasey

are back in the field to plant the crops and begin to halter break calves for summer shows. Summer leads to endless time in the barn working and preparing our show heifers or time on the road heading  to cattle shows. My mother says, “The long road trips to Jr. Nationals are her favorite memories.”  Season after season, day in and day out, there is never a dull moment on the farm.

 

 

I have many fond memories that I have made while growing up on the farm and if you are a farm kid you can probably relate. You are always up before the sun and not back in the house after sun sets. The endless hours spent in the barn with your

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Picture taken by Payton Creasey

family turns into bonding time and teaches the true meaning of family.  My father said, “Time spent in the show barn with my daughters working on heifers is my favorite time spent.” In the winter when you get your work done and it’s time for fun, bring out the 4-wheeler to pull the sled on the snow. You have your “good” clothes and your chore clothes and boots. Growing up on a farm you learn to drive tractors, 4-wheelers, and trucks at a young age. You will have the tough call of do you chore before you go out to dinner or do it when you return. You learn where your food truly comes from. You learn to be tough. There is no crying. Get up, rub some dirt on it and keep moving to get the job done. Growing up as a farm kid I have learned family comes first, work until you get the job gets done, when working with livestock you are on their time, and lastly always thank a farmer. Even after all this I wouldn’t want to grow up anywhere else.

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Professional head shot by: Sarah Twidwell

 

Hi everyone, I am Payton Creasey. I will be graduating in May with a degree in Agricultural Business and a minor in Animal Science. I was born and raised in Macomb while following in the parents food steps by attending Western Illinois University. I come from a family that has crops and livestock. My past summers I have interned with Syngenta, a corn and soybean company, and also with Dearwester Feed and Grain Services. My passion is agriculture and I plan to one day pursue a career in this field.

Rotational Grazing

 

More than a quarter of agricultural ground in the midwest is some kind of pasture. About 80% of these pastures are not properly taken care of. Because of that they have issues with uneven fertility, erosion, and weeds. One of the most common reasons for poor pasture health is being continuously grazed throughout the season. Continuous grazing results in very low pasture yields and makes it impossible for it to fully recover. Pasture ground needs to be managed in a way that improves efficiency and productivity. Rotational grazing will dramatically improve pasture quality.Summer_grazing_landscape_LG

What exactly is rotational grazing? Rotational grazing is when pasture is split into sections. This way livestock can graze a section at a time, so the other sections can regrow and recover. Then when that section is grazed down, livestock is moved to the next section, which is fully grown up. For this cycle to work well, rotations must be timed with the forage growth. A common problem with this is that some livestock producers rotate based on a schedule instead of the growth stage of the pasture. When done correctly, rotational grazing can improve an operation’s efficiency in a number of ways. When my grandpa had cattle he would always rotate them, and so does the farm I work for now.

Some of the positive impacts of rotational grazing include increased production and yields, time saving, environmental benefits, animal health and welfare, and obviously increased pasture productivity. The midwest has a lot of farmers using rotational grazing right now. A Wisconsin survey found that in the 1990s there were almost no farmers using this. Now over half of beef and dairy operations are using this management system. However rotational grazing is not just for cattle, it can be used with sheep, horses, goats, and chickens. This management practice benefits the farmer, animals, and the land. It also allows the farmer to profit from the land. Grazing systems have become much more common as people begin to see the improvements it brings.

 

Kevin McCutchan. Aledo, Illinois. Senior at Western Illinois University.

The Benefits of Showing Pigs

I haven’t always grown up raising pigs and showing pigs. I know what it’s like to not have any livestock. I have been raising and showing pigs for the past eight years now. I can tell you that if I could go back and start raising pigs sooner than when I started I would and I can bet that everyone else that raises and shows livestock would tell you the same thing. If I hadn’t got involved in raising livestock I probably wouldn’t be very involved in agriculture as I am now because raising and showing pigs is really what helped me get set on the path that I’m on now. There are many benefits in this industry the ones that really stick out to me, are the work ethic, passion and responsibilities lImage result for show pigsearned all which can be applied to the real world.

Work ethic is the most value trait to have in todays’ society and showing pigs helps to develop a great work ethic. When showing competitively it takes time to work with pigs. There’s countless hours spent working with pigs from washing and getting them out and walking them around to get them use to being lead around with a show stick. You won’t always get to go out and do stuff with your friends because your busy taking care of your pigs getting them ready for shows. This helps prepare young adults for what the real world is like.

You must have passion for what you to do. If you don’t have passion for what you do it becomes irrelevant and talent is taken away from somewhere else. There has to be a drive because a kid won’t want to walk pigs every day or want to go travel to different shows throughout the year. A family can go out and buy a show pig or they can actually raise the pig from birth on their farm they spend countless hours working with it to reach goals that they have with that pig. Sometimes all the hard work is paid off by winning ribbons, banners, or trophies. But that’s not always going to happen there’s maybe a few years you don’t win anything but then you have a year where you win a ribbon, banner, or trophy and then that makes it all worth it. The years you don’t win don’t let that discourage you just take what you learned that year and apply it to the next year. Never given up on your passion.

The responsibilities that showing pigs teaches you is one of my favorite qualities. Any livestock needs to get fed twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. There’s walking and washing the pig every day. Without doing this the pig won’t walk right in the ring and will be dirty and you won’t compete in the show ring. This keeps you close to home because you have to be around to take care of your animal, so this means no weekend getaways or going out of town for the day. Another responsibility is planning ahead by booking hotel rooms, packing all the feed you need, and planning your route before going to a show. There are many other responsibilities that can be learned by the youth.

I find that there are many benefits in showing pigs. Raising any livestock can teach you many important values. When I have kids, I plan to get them involved in showing pigs, to show them the benefits that come from showing pigs. This hobby can turn into a lifestyle.

My Name Collin Swanson and I’m a senior at Western Illinois University for Ag Business. I grew up around my Uncles grain and cattle farm in West Central Illinois.  I have a passion for raising and showing pigs. I plan to go into seed sales after graduating.

The Benefits of Showing Pigs

I haven’t always grown up raising pigs and showing pigs. I know what it’s like to not have any livestock. I have been raising and showing pigs for the past eight years now. I can tell you that if I could go back and start raising pigs sooner than when I started I would and I can bet that everyone else that raises and shows livestock would tell you the same thing. If I hadn’t got involved in raising livestock I probably wouldn’t be very involved in agriculture as I am now because raising and showing pigs is really what helped me get set on the path that I’m on now. There are many benefits in this industry the ones that really stick out to me, are the work ethic, passion and responsibilities lImage result for show pigsearned all which can be applied to the real world.

Work ethic is the most value trait to have in todays’ society and showing pigs helps to develop a great work ethic. When showing competitively it takes time to work with pigs. There’s countless hours spent working with pigs from washing and getting them out and walking them around to get them use to being lead around with a show stick. You won’t always get to go out and do stuff with your friends because your busy taking care of your pigs getting them ready for shows. This helps prepare young adults for what the real world is like.

“There are no secrets to success, it is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”- Colin Powell

You must have passion for what you to do. If you don’t have passion for what you do it becomes irrelevant and talent is taken away from somewhere else. There has to be a drive because a kid won’t want to walk pigs every day or want to go travel to different shows throughout the year. A family can go out and buy a show pig or they can actually raise the pig from birth on their farm they spend countless hours working with it to reach goals that they have with that pig. Sometimes all the hard work is paid off by winning ribbons, banners, or trophies. But that’s not always going to happen there’s maybe a few years you don’t win anything but then you have a year where you win a ribbon, banner, or trophy and then that makes it all worth it. The years you don’t win don’t let that discourage you just take what you learned that year and apply it to the next year. Never given up on your passion.

The responsibilities that showing pigs teaches you is one of my favorite qualities. Any livestock needs to get fed twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. There’s walking and washing the pig every day. Without doing this the pig won’t walk right in the ring and will be dirty and you won’t compete in the show ring. This keeps you close to home because you have to be around to take care of your animal, so this means no weekend getaways or going out of town for the day. Another responsibility is planning ahead by booking hotel rooms, packing all the feed you need, and planning your route before going to a show. There are many other responsibilities that can be learned by the youth.

I find that there are many benefits in showing pigs. Raising any livestock can teach you many important values. When I have kids, I plan to get them involved in showing pigs, to show them the benefits that come from showing pigs. This hobby can turn into a lifestyle.

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My Name Collin Swanson and I’m a senior at Western Illinois University for Ag Business. I grew up around my Uncles grain and cattle farm in West Central Illinois.  I have a passion for raising and showing pigs. I plan to go into seed sales after graduating.

Chickens, Man’s Best Friend?

I’m going to be honest here, chickens will never be man’s best friend. That spot is unquestionably reserved for dogs. However, chickens do provide a level of functionality that dogs may never reach. Not only are chickens super cheap and easy to own, but they offer numerous benefits to the owner.

Before we get into the benefits, let’s discuss how affordable chickens can be. Many retail farm stores sell chicks in the spring. In fact, the Farm King store in which I work sells around 2,000 chicks each spring. The chicks run from about $2-$4 depending on breed and quantity bought. Chicks eat chick starter grower, which runs $10-15. Bedding will cost you around $5, and heat lamp and bulb will cost you around $12. So, provided you have a spot at home for them, you could join the chicken world with 10 chicks for around $55. Dogs can cost well into the hundreds of dollars from a shelter, let alone from a breeder.

Now you might be saying, “why would I spend my money on a chicken?”, well, there are many reasons. Firstly, chickens are very easy to take care of. They are a very low maintenance animal. All that you have to do is let chickens out and, provided they have enough space, they will find their own food. Now, what if you have neighbors? A good fence and clipping chicken’s wings can keep them in. While chickens are foraging for food, they will provide two services free-of-charge. Chickens will clean up ground that you need cleared and will help control local insect populations. Chicken owners can utilize a “chicken tractor” to ensure that chickens clear out problem weed areas. A “chicken tractor” is essentially a movable cage. You put the chickens in the cage over a problem weed area and the chickens will clean it for you! Chickens obviously wont be able to clear big woody structures like trees and branches, but they are able to effectively clean out many weeds.

Chickens also eat a wide range of insects including; Japanese beetles, ticks, flies, and ants. By owning chickens, you are helping lower insect population in your yard. I think it is fair to mention that chickens won’t eat all types of bugs, and they wont completely clear your yard of insects. However, they will eat many types of bugs and they do it for free.

Have you ever wanted to make an omelet or cake, only to realize that you are out of eggs? Chickens can help solve this problem. They will lay 3-6 eggs per week, depending on the breed. This means that when your 10 hens are laying, you will get over 30 eggs per week. These can be used at home, shared with relatives, or even sold. Your friends and family will go nuts for the farm-fresh eggs.

Finally you might be saying, dogs and cats are friendly, chickens are not. This is a huge misconception. Chickens are like any other animal, if you give them attention, they will become docile, friendly, and even cuddly. In fact this past spring, I brought one of my chickens, Hilda, into a 5th grade class room. She was very well-behaved and showed the students how nice chickens can be.

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If you are interested in beginning a chicken adventure, consult your local retail farm store. They will have all you need to get started. Before you do, make sure that you consult local codes. Some cities allow residents to own up to a certain amount of chickens. If you do decide to raise chickens, you will get the benefits of eggs, weed clearing, and less insects. But you will also realize that chickens are just so darn cute!

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Hello! My name is Colton Downs and I call Canton, Illinois home. I am a senior agriculture education major at Western Illinois University. I grew up on a small livestock operation, with a few goats, sheep, and chickens. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog!