Winter 1991 // Volume 29 // Number 4 // Research in Brief // 4RIB5
Beyond Livestock Contests
Youth must be provided opportunities to explore career options, be introduced to science and technology related to these career choices, and develop fundamental life skills to become productive members of society. Do traditional 4-H project activities provide these opportunities? To answer this question, a survey was conducted to determine the impact of the 4-H swine project on youth development.
Youth must be provided opportunities to explore career options, be introduced to science and technology related to these career choices, and develop fundamental life skills to become productive members of society.1 Do traditional 4-H project activities provide these opportunities? To answer this question, a survey was conducted to determine the impact of the 4-H swine project on youth development.
A total of 112 Ohio swine project members with four to 10 years of swine project experience were asked how much they learned about 13 topics related to fundamental swine production knowledge, and additional questions were asked related to career knowledge and life skills development. Overall, swine production knowledge gained was high, with 68% indicating they learned "some" or "much" about swine production and management.
When specific areas of production were considered, it was disappointing that relative knowledge gained was less for activities involving record keeping, management practices, health, reproduction, and nutrition than for fitting, showing, and selecting the ideal animal. Since intensive training and emphasis has been placed on fitting, showing, and livestock judging in the past, it's not surprising that swine project members learned the most in those project activities.
However, successful pork production requires knowledge and skill in a variety of areas related to biology and business and doesn't depend on fitting, showing, and livestock judging. Are we preparing youth interested in careers in the swine industry with subject-matter knowledge in important areas to help them understand the realities of the pork production business?
When swine project members were asked about their knowledge of careers in agriculture, 13% had learned nothing, 14% learned "little," 36% learned "some," and 37% learned "much." These results were surprising since the majority of youth surveyed (68%) were from families that were either part-time farmers or from families that didn't farm.
Life skills development is an important part of the total 4- H swine project experience. In this survey, project members indicated that they learned the most about sportsmanship and working with others, followed by accepting responsibility, communicating with others, and making decisions. Leading a group and public speaking skills were least learned.
Results of this survey suggest that the 4-H swine project provides important positive experiences related to production knowledge, career awareness, and life skills development, but further youth development may be possible if additional educational opportunities are provided.
Consequently, two advanced educational programs were developed to provide additional experiences not provided by traditional 4-H swine projects. Program evaluation results from youth participating in these programs indicated they respond well to further educational challenges.
1. Cooperative Extension System National Initiative: Focus on Issues, Executive Summary (Washington, D.C.: Extension Service, USDA, 1988).