4-H Dairy Heifer Project
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Madison County has very few youth who participate in livestock projects, although there are youth eager to learn about and interact with livestock. Barriers to participation are often due to space, structural, or financial limitations, and sometimes due to lack of knowledge about livestock care.
Madison County Extension created the 4-H Dairy Heifer Project a few years ago to introduce youth to livestock care and showing. Cooperative Extension leveraged partnerships with the local Humane Society for use of a barn and pasture, and a local dairyman who provided five heifers, feed, and hay for a six week program at no cost. In turn, the project was offered to 4-H’ers free of charge. The 4-H Dairy Heifer Project meets the needs of the Madison County community by offering youth an introductory livestock project, without any financial obligation.
Ten youth participated in the 4-H Dairy Heifer Project, all of whom would not have been able to house cattle at home. They attended twelve educational practices, which included halter breaking the heifers, walking and practicing showmanship, learning basic anatomy and nutrition, caring for the heifers, and learning essentials of animal care. Youth were also responsible for checking on the heifers, feeding and barn chores on a rotating schedule throughout the duration of the project. The 4-H Dairy Heifer Project culminated with a show at the Madison County Fair. All ten youth successfully showed their heifers in showmanship, and participated in a fun costume contest with their heifers. The 4-H Dairy Heifer Project provided an opportunity for youth to try something new and learn the value of hard work and perseverance, develop confidence and responsibility, practice teamwork, and build many more life skills.