By: Levi McPhillips
On Wednesday May 2nd I helped with the Gage County Life on the Farm. Grade schoolers from the Beatrice and Lincoln area attended the event. There were several booths around the fairgrounds where the children learned about cattle, sheep, horses, and most importantly, pigs. Another mentor Carl Jacobson and I assisted Scott Spilker a hog producer and a member of the Nebraska Pork Producers. He raises hogs on his farm north of Beatrice. Scott was gracious enough to provide two of his nursery pigs for the children to pet at the end of each session.
We taught seven groups of students about the various components of pork production. Each group was taught for twenty minutes. I talked about the life cycle of a pig. The children learned about the farrowing, nursery, and finishing stages of a pig’s life. They also learned that the gestation period of a sow is three months, three weeks, three days, and that most litters will consist of 10-12 piglets. Carl taught the grade schoolers about the different hog breeds. He also taught them an interesting fact that hogs do not sweat, and what we do as producers to keep them cool. Scott had a lot of educational things to say about hogs as well. He showed them pictures of different cuts of pork such as loins, bacon, hot dogs, and ham. He also talked about pork by-products such as make-up, insulin, and heart valves.
Scott did a great job of stressing the idea of sustainability. Being sustainable helps preserve natural resources including water, soil nutrients, and petroleum. Many hog producers, including Scott raise corn that is fed to their livestock. The hogs eat the corn, and then the farmers apply the hog manure to the fields. The corn feeds the pig, the pig feeds humans, and the pig also feeds the soil with valuable nutrients.
Children have short attention spans, but Scott was prepared. Not only did he bring two of his own hogs, but he also brought pellets from his nursery, and a mixed ration that he finishes his hogs with. The students got to see first hand what hogs look like and also what they eat.
With the decreasing number of family operations, the number of children getting exposed to agriculture is also decreasing. I am becoming more and more grateful to my parents for giving me a chance to experience animal agriculture firsthand. That experience fostered work ethic, character, and most importantly a thirst to teach others about agriculture. I want more people to know about livestock and more importantly, I want less people to know what it is like to go hungry.