Buffalo Island Central FFA members and several 4-H youth are learning responsibility through the caring and showing of livestock and poultry.
The BIC students are working under the direction of Bruce Fires, BIC junior and senior high school FFA adviser.
Fires said several young people are getting an earlier start through the local 4-H program. April Finch serves as 4-H leader for the Craighead County Junior Livestock Club. She has 60 youth enrolled overall and 30 from BIC School. They raise and show goats, lambs, rabbits, chickens, ducks and cattle. This year they participated in the Crowley Ridge Show and the Buffalo Island Livestock Show. FFA members also took animals to both shows.
Fires said the program is really growing at BIC and students did very well at the Buffalo Island Livestock Show held April 4-6.
FFA students winning at the Buffalo Island Livestock Show include Forrest Robertson, Drake Brown, Griffin Varner, Slade Sitz, Leigh Childs, and Peyton Milligan.
Forrest Robertson is a three year veteran of the group and has worked with livestock and poultry showing goats, lambs, hogs, steer, commercial heifer, and broilers. His work and dedication was evident as he was awarded several awards at the Buffalo Island Livestock Show including Grand Champion in showmanship for one of his goats. Other awards he received included third place in class with goat; fourth and fifth place in class with lamb; third place in class with hog; seventh place in class with steer; sixth place in class with commercial heifer; and 12th place in broilers.
Forrest will graduate from high school this year but the younger students said they expect him to come back and be a mentor to them in the program.
Drake Brown won first in class and Grand Champion for his short-horn plus bull; fourth place in supreme bull drive; and eighth place in class with steer.
Griffin Varner received first place and grand champion in hereford bull; first in class and reserve grand champion angus bull; and sixth in class angus heifers.
Slade Sitz received seventh place in commercial heifer and eighth place in class with lamb.
Leigh Childs won seventh place in class with goat; Peyton Milligan won sixth place in class with lamb.
"The program is growing and we appreciate all of the support we have received," Fires said. "The Wildys, along with others, allow the use of their barns. We have a new calf donated by Melvin McCoy at the Wildy Farm. The students named the black angus cross heifer Mabel and they are bottle feeding her. Blaine Wildy is part of the 4-H Livestock and a future FFA student."
Blaine received the grand champion market steer at the Buffalo Island Livestock Show and reserve grand champion at Crowley Ridge show with his steer named MoJo.
Caring for livestock and poultry is a character builder. These students are responsible for the feeding, caring, and showing of their animals.
This is Fires' fifth year at BIC and the program has continued to grow since its beginning four years ago. It started with two goats. This year the FFA and 4-H have 15 goats, 12 lambs, nine calves, and broilers.
"Again I appreciate the support we receive from the community, school and parents," Fires said. "The school is working with us and it will be helpful to be able to have the animals near the school so the students can get them ready to show. I am proud of our kids. They have really stepped up in the program. They are up at 6:30 a.m. feeding their livestock before coming to school. They learn so much. They are caring and grooming these animals learning about the best nutrition, learning how to judge, and getting an overall education on animal husbandry."
Fires grew up caring for animals as he followed rodeos as a team roper. He cared for horses and cattle and he knows what a responsibility it is.
"The kids are competing when they go to a show, but they don't hesitate to help each other with the animals getting ready to show even if they are being judged in the same category," Fires said.
In addition to the hands-on care of the animals, the students are learning business skills. They learn what is good to buy, the amount of feed, to work on a budget, and the cost of overall care.
There is no break in the summer or holidays, the animals have to be cared for every day of the year.
"I would love to see each one of my students have a project whether it is caring and showing animals, gardening or other projects of their interest," Fires said.
Through the BIC FFA or the Craighead County 4-H Livestock Club, young people are learning responsibility, building character, learning work ethics, and building skills to benefit them throughout their lives.
Fires works with his students and asks each one what they would like to see in the individual animals.
"They know what the judges are looking for in the different categories," Fires said. "When the FFA program gets an area for the animals more young people will have the opportunity to participate because they will have a place to care for and work with the animals."
"It will give more students who live in town the chance to be a part of the program," Fires said.
The 4-H Livestock Club meets on a regular basis and learns about clipping, washing, feeding caring and much more. Ms. Finch works with Craighead County Extension Agent Brittany Scott. Anyone wanting more information on the 4-H Livestock Club can contact Finch or Scott.