Idaho counties mull mandatory 4-H animal certification
By John O’Connell
Twin Falls County 4-H leaders may require all youths who show animal projects at their county fair to undergo training to receive Market Animal Quality Assurance certification.
The change would be enacted in 2015 or 2016, said Suzann Dolecheck, youth development extension educator Twin Falls County. University of Idaho Extension educators in Cassia County are also considering the requirement, Dolecheck said.
Other Idaho county 4-H leaders say they’ll be paying close attention to the results. While other states have begun mandating certification in their 4-H programs, Dolecheck believes her county would be “on the cutting edge in Idaho.”
She explained her program oversees 200-300 youths and adults, and it’s difficult to make sure children are exposed to all of the key concepts of animal agriculture.
“With a quality assurance program, that’s going to ensure every kid gets the same information,” Dolecheck said.
She believes the certification will provide skills that will enhance applications for post-secondary agricultural programs and youths may put to use on family farms.
Youths throughout the state may still take the UI training on a voluntary basis this year. Dolecheck introduced the idea to her clubs earlier this month and plans to have quality assurance days this summer for each animal class to provide more background.
4-H children participate in age groups of 8-11, 12-14 and 15-18. Dolecheck suggests the training should be repeated each time a child enters a new age group, though program details have yet to be finalized. Twin Falls County youths show more than 400 animals at their fair, hosted during Labor Day weekend, and have one of the country’s largest 4-H beef shows.
Reed Findlay, a UI Extension educator in Power County, Idaho, has taught quality assurance at beef schools for adult producers for many years and believes the training has helped improve practices such as administering proper injections and maintaining high-quality meat. One of the reasons he hasn’t required quality assurance training for 4-H youths is that the quality of their animals is already phenomenal, due to the special attention they give them.
“I’m totally for the program,” Findlay said. “I’d like to see how it goes in another county and then jump into it.”
Billy Whitehurst, Idaho Beef Quality Assurance program coordinator, said adult training takes three hours. The 4-H training would be specially geared toward youths and would likely be broken into three hour-long sessions. Whitehurst said the certification would also provide assurance to buyers of 4H meat that youths are following appropriate protocols.
“The younger we can get these practices ingrained into them, the better off the industry is going to be as they mature and take their seat at the industry’s table,” Whitehurst said.
He explained the beef certification program addresses biosecurity, herd health, feed additives and medication, residue avoidance, handling, nutrition, pesticides and herbicides to enhance consumer confidence. Idaho has 1,600 certified beef producers and offers up to 26 workshops per year to beef producers, Whitehurst said.