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2017 Southwest Animal Science Challenge

By Melissa Runck is an Extension Educator-Ag Production Systems with University of Minnesota Extension in Murray and Pipestone Counties.

Eighty four 4-H members from across southern Minnesota recently gathered in Wabasso for the seventh annual Southwest Animal Science Challenge (SWASC).  This event combines three main components – project bowl, skill-a-thons, and workshops – into one program that is designed to enhance 4-H’ers knowledge and understanding of their livestock or horse projects.  Activities are divided into both horse and general livestock categories and 4-H’ers are divided by age level into junior and senior divisions.

A key feature of recent SWASC programs has been the ever-popular workshops presented by industry professionals on an array of topics.  Workshops this year included presentations on artificial insemination in cattle, udder health, livestock nutrition, and animal recycling.  

Tom Hook, Hook Farms of Tracy, presented “Introduction to Artificial Insemination in Cattle”.  In this workshop youth learned the benefits of using artificial insemination (A.I.), an overview of female bovine anatomy, proper handling of frozen semen, and the A.I. process. At the end of the session they were able to put this knowledge to use by practice breeding real female reproductive tracts.  

Milking performance and production are important factors in production livestock, yet knowledge about udder health and the mammary system are often foreign.  In the udder health session Dr. Maristela Rovai, South Dakota State University Extension Dairy Specialist, and Brent Van Middendorp, Alltech Territory Sales Representative, used a 3D model to teach 4-H’ers about the anatomy of an udder, how to maintain proper udder health and recognize problems in the udder, and followed that with the dissection of real cow and sheep udders.  

Jaime Pietig of Hubbard Feeds, Inc. showed the youth the difference in ruminant animals (animals with four-compartment stomachs) versus monogastrics (single-stomach animals), how these stomach sytems differ, and the specific functions of the four-compartment stomach.  Pietig used a real sheep and hog stomach to demonstrate the linings of each compartment, and the different feedstuffs each animal eats and how their stomach digests those food particles.  

Animal recycling, or animal rendering, is a major component of the livestock industry that produces a vast array of products that we use every single day.  Glenn Jensen of Central Bi-Products in Redwood Falls discussed the different source materials that are delivered to the facility, including animal parts such as brains, eyeballs, spinal cords, intestines, bones, feathers, and hooves. Source materials are then processed into ingredients used in a number of products that many people do not associate with animals, such as soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, hair dyes, crayons, glue, pharmaceutical products, and so much more.  

The General Livestock and Horse Project Bowl competitions draw in a large percentage of the SWASC participants.  Formatted after the golden-oldie television show “College Bowl”, it challenges teams of 3-6 youth on their knowledge of 4-H project areas (General Livestock or Horse).  Teams compete in a round-robin style contest to practice for the upcoming Regional 4-H Project Bowl competitions; winners are determined by the teams cumulative points. Questions for both contests come from all different facets of the livestock and horse industries, and cover topics ranging from breeding, animal health, nutrition, grazing, marketing, meats, and breed identification.  

Both Horse and General Livestock attendants participate in several hands-on skill-a-thon stations to enhance learning of their respective species, and to tie in their knowledge learned from Project Bowl resources.  Horse skill-a-thon participants learned about genetics and coat color patterns, poisonous plants, different types of knots and their uses, parts of a race track, saddle seat equipment ID, parasite ID, and disease scenarios.  General Livestock skill-a-thon stations participants were asked to design a seedstock marketing ad, identify livestock diseases, calculate breakevens and performance information, and identify assorted livestock equipment.

This fun and educational event is held each year in February/early March in Wabasso to challenge youth on specie knowledge and teach application skills for their 4-H projects.

“Go Wild” at 4-H Adventures After-School Program

By Margie Anderson

Explore wildlife habitat and survival while playing games, making snacks, and completing activities.  First through fourth graders at Fulda are encouraged to sign up for 4-H Adventures that will begin after-school on April 3 and continue on April 10 & 24 at the Fulda Elementary School cafeteria.  Each session includes an educational wildlife lesson, a snack, and lots of fun!  Cost is $4 per session or $10 for all three sessions.  Registration is due by March 24 to the Fulda Community Ed office or University of Minnesota Extension-Murray County office.  Forms are available online at U of M Extenson-Murray County.

2017 FSA Farm Program Signup Underway

Producers on farms with base acres under the safety net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill, known as the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs, can visit their local FSA office to sign contracts and enroll for the 2017 crop year. The enrollment period will continue until Aug. 1, 2017.

Since shares and ownership of a farm can change year-to-year, producers on the farm must enroll by signing a contract each program year. 

If a farm is not enrolled during the 2017 enrollment period, the producers on that farm will not be eligible for financial assistance from the ARC or PLC programs for the 2017 crop should crop prices or farm revenues fall below the historical price or revenue benchmarks established by the program. Producers who made their elections in 2015 must still enroll during the 2017 enrollment period.

The ARC and PLC programs were authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and offer a safety net to agricultural producers when there is a substantial drop in prices or revenues for covered commodities. Covered commodities include barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium grain rice (which includes short grain and sweet rice), safflower seed, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed and wheat. Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity. For more details regarding these programs, go to

Signup progress has been slow with many FSA offices reporting only 30% signed up.  We encourage all producers to take care of signup now before field work starts.   Summer will be busy with acreage certification and higher than normal CRP interest, so waiting to sign up in the farm program till summer will result in longer than normal waiting times.  

For more information, producers are encouraged to visit their local FSA office. To find a local FSA office, visit

Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force Recognized for their Outstanding Investigative Effort

During a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) ceremony on March 09, 2017, the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force (BRDTF) received the 2016 HIDTA Outstanding Investigative Effort award. The BRDTF was recognized for their outstanding achievements and significant contributions to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program.