Farm learning experience begins with grazing choices
GUYTON – A door to valuable learning opportunities is always open at Honey Ridge Agricenter.
On June 8, a group of students from the Effingham County School District selected calves to care for and work with in preparation for a series of livestock shows, including one at the county fair. of Effingham in October.
“She’s a relative newcomer to this,” Marcia Zimmerman said as she watched her daughter, Emma, choose No. 121, a Hereford heifer.
The proud mum couldn’t resist when Emma let her know she wanted to raise a cow.
“She loves animals,” Zimmerman said. “When she was much younger, we had a little cow. It was called Harley and we gave it to a friend.
Emma jumped at the chance to have a cow again after recently moving from Pennsylvania to Effingham County. The aspiring vet is a 16-year-old junior from South Effingham High School.
“I really love animals and wanted to get more involved with the school,” said Emma, who was accompanied by Jackie Alascagua and Yunue Chacon. “I don’t think FFA is as big in Pennsylvania as it is here.”
Alascagua and Chacon didn’t pick a calf for themselves, but they did give their close friend some advice.
“They wanted me to buy a small one,” Emma said.
“But they’re so cute,” Alascagua said with a smile.
Emma started considering names for her new beast immediately after choosing it.
“I was thinking Betsy, Sweet Pea or Bertha,” she first said.
A few minutes later, however, Nemo came up as a possible nickname.
Emma walked around a paddock full of more than a dozen 5-6 month old cows before finalizing her choice.
“I was making sure it was a heifer and not a steer, and it was a thoroughbred,” she said. “I wanted it to look good, fundamentally, and wholesome.”
The bulk of Honey Ridge’s calves come from a prestigious Hereford line established by cattle rancher Sam Zemurray decades ago. Zemurray, a former president of the Georgia Hereford Association who died in 2018, transferred Honey Ridge and his cattle to the Effingham County School District in 2016.
“In the past, our purebred Hereford heifers have done better at local and statewide shows, including the state cattle show in Perry,” said Alicia Richardson, professor of agriculture at South Effingham High School.
Emma and other students wasted no time getting to know their cows. They were transported to a nearby barn shortly after the selection process was completed to begin halter training.
“(The cows) are very stubborn at first,” said Benjamin Richardson, an agriculture professor at South Effingham and husband of Alicia Richardson. “You’re trying to do something they’re not used to doing. It’s an amazing transformation because they are stubborn and will pull you in June, but in February they will be like puppies.
In addition to walking their animals, students wash them and give special care to their coats and hooves.
“I used to say it’s like a girl getting ready for prom,” Benjamin Richardson said.
Young Farmer Advisor Logan Hunter thinks livestock shows are growing in popularity.
“We had five (students) here picking cows today,” he said. “We had nine kids who got a goat to show off probably three weeks ago. (The goats) weaned much earlier.
A student had previously opted for a sheep.
“And we also have six pig showers here,” Hunter said.
Emma will feed and water her heifer twice a day. She will also put a halter on it regularly and walk it around in preparation for leading it into a show ring.
“I’m excited about it,” she said. “I think I’m ready.”
Without Honey Ridge Agricenter, Emma’s foray into livestock shows would not have been possible. His family lives in a housing estate in Rincon.
“(Teachers) suggest that you leave (the cow) here because she will receive the best care,” Zimmerman said. “You don’t have to buy the food or anything. They provide all of that.
Emma keeps a few animals at home – a cat, a lizard and a pair of turtles.
“Actually, she wants a horse and she has a dog,” her mother said.
Emma’s situation with her cow is shared by several Effingham County students.
“Last year we had nine pig showers and I think all nine lived in housing estates where they couldn’t have a pig,” Hunter said.
Hunter thinks livestock shows are a worthwhile endeavor for students.
“It teaches a sense of responsibility, the idea of taking care of something and a knowledge for animals,” he said. “There are a lot of things in there that go towards teamwork as well. They are a team with themselves and the animal, and this place allows us – if you show up in that barn in Honey Ridge and use a county trailer – we want you to work as a team.
“These kids become friends and they basically become teammates. It’s not a team sport, but they still get a lot out of those same aspects.
Hunter offered another important thought.
“I always like to say to some of these kids, ‘It’s win or learn’ with this sport. I don’t think they ever lose in this sport or any sport,” he said. “I don’t think you ever lose at showing animals because there’s always something to learn.
“Sometimes there are things you can’t control, but you have to persevere and keep going.”
At the end of each livestock show season, which consists of approximately 10 events, students have the option of purchasing the animal of their choice or returning it to Honey Ridge. The cows will then weigh approximately 1,200 pounds.
“The females will come back to the herd,” Hunter said. “The males – we allow students to buy them if they want to. If they give them back to us, we will resell them.
“We give children the opportunity to show these animals. We’re going to feed these animals anyway, so the trade-off is that the kids learn about farming. I would do that anytime.