“Well, it was…interesting.”
That was how Hannah, a high school senior and reporter for her FFA chapter in Florida, reacted after she helped work a load of feeder cattle at the DeWitz farm near Tappen, N.D. Hannah, her father and brother, along with several other family members, gathered at the farm for a pheasant hunt. I was the third wheel, the only non-family member of the group.
Hannah represents what I suspect is a fair number of FFA students. She has been a horsewoman for years, but is not from an ag family. She joined FFA last year at the urging of her advisor, the first year her high school had a chapter. Her work helping vaccinate, deworm and implant the calves bound for the DeWitz feedlot was a first, and a wonderful educational experience.
The reason she found it “interesting,” she told me, is because of newness of the experience and her first time to stick a needle in the neck of a 600-pound calf. “It was kind of sad when I looked in their eyes,” she said, “but then when they left the chute and trotted into the pen, they looked happy.”
At the same time Hannah was learning how to work calves, I was in the shop with Ryan, a computer technician who was trying to fix my laptop. We wandered over to the processing barn to watch, and Ty DeWitz and I plied him with lots of information on what Ty and his hired hand were doing and why.
Later, Ty asked me what the computer tech thought of his experience; Ty was concerned that he came away from it with a positive outlook on how cattle are handled and treated. I thought he did, I told Ty. We continued the conversation back in the shop, where I closed the circle from the farm and feedlot to the all-beef hot dogs he likes.
Education is important, Ty believes, and he will invite anyone to his farm to learn how they farm, how they run their 500-head cowherd and their feedlot. He’s right and he hit a home run with Hannah and Ryan.
Ty DeWitz is willing to stop what he’s doing and explain why he’s doing it. He’s one of many, many who will do that and the beef business now has two more people who will tell others of their positive experience.