Youth livestock exhibitors should be aware that the public will develop opinions about production agriculture based on what they see, hear and perceive at livestock shows, fairs and exhibitions. With a smart phone it only takes seconds for someone to capture the interaction between you and your animal. Remember the practices that are used to prepare and show animals may be all the public ever sees as livestock production, so it is important to set a good example and not let a moment of poor judgement go viral.
Youth livestock producers are ethically, morally and legally responsible for animals in their care. Animals should be provided appropriate feed, water, comfort and safety while ensuring the animals are not subjected to unnecessary fear, stress or discomfort. Youth are ethically responsible for the well-being of the animals in their care and must not tolerate willful acts of animal neglect or abuse. Youth should take pride in the fact that appropriate animal well-being and properly caring for animals is the right thing to do.
Often we hear “animal care,” “animal well-being,” “animal welfare” and “animal rights” used interchangeably. These phrases mean different things, and it is important to understand the differences.
While animal care focuses on the care a youth producer provides through moral and ethical obligations as a caregiver, quality assurance also plays a role. Quality assurance provides consumers with protection and some piece of mind knowing that appropriate actions are being taken when raising a safe and wholesome product for consumption. The combination of animal care and quality assurance are an ideal and holistic approach to livestock production.
As responsible youth livestock producers, excellent care should be provided for animal(s) on a full-time basis. Through sound production practices, animals will flourish. Quality Assurance (QA) was developed to assure consumers that the products produced from animals that are consumed or produce a consumable product are wholesome and safe, and the animals that produced the product were cared for properly. While several species (beef, swine, dairy and sheep) have existing adult quality assurance programs, there was a need for a youth program. The Youth for the Quality Care of Animals (YQCA) was developed in 2017 and has many of the same principles as adult QA programs. In general, QA programs focus on good production practices, which include:
At a fair, show or exhibition youth may be interviewed by the media or approached by people who do not raise animals. It is important for them to be able to share their story with the general public.
The Center for Food Integrity’s Engage Training (2015) provides strategies when communicating with the public:
It is also crucial to be as transparent as possible. Increasing transparency builds trust. The Center for Food Integrity’s A Clear View of Transparency training (2015) provides seven tips you can use to build trust and transparency:
With each animal raised, youth producers have a unique experience. Rarely will two people have the same story. As youth communicate with the public, they need to share their individual, unique experiences. Remember, there are two main components, the animal care portion and the consumer protection portion.
All youth producers should be able to answer these questions about their animals. Being transparent and communicating with the public can be nerve wracking, but when youth share with the public that they maintain records, complete Quality Assurance training, and provide the best care to their animals, it goes a long way in increasing the public’s confidence that youth are raising safe and wholesome food product that they would feel comfortable eating and feeding to their family.
Youth for the Quality Care of Animals
The curriculum teaches youth to raise quality swine, beef and dairy cattle, sheep, goats, dairy goats, rabbits, and poultry.
L. Chichester & K. Dam, 2022, Animal Care, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, FS-18-09
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