MISSOULA – Some ambitious Missoula County Public Schools students are sharpening their professional skills for an upcoming competition. But they won’t be in skirts and suits. Rather, its boots and jeans for these Future Farmers of America.
“This year I have a steer and a heifer that I’m going to be showing at fair, and I’m really excited about both of those, but mostly my heifer, who is a limousine, and her name is Tillie,” said Big Sky High School Senior Liz Brennan who is a FFA member.
Livestock judging teaches students the characteristics that make for a competitive market animal.
“We’re measuring their back fat, measuring their loin eye, and doing a marbling score,” explained ultrasound technician Bob Patacini who’s gathering data for the students.
The ultrasound results provide students with data about their animals that they will use to improve projects and perform in competitions, Patacini said.
Brennan will be breeding her heifer this spring, and then sell it to make some money for college.
“I’m going to take that information and find their sires, and see which one had the best results. So then I will figure out which bull that I want to use on my new heifer,” she said.
MCPS agricultural programs give students from Big Sky, Hellgate, and Sentinel high schools — who might not have any other opportunity to be involved with agriculture — the chance to have their own project and take care of it themselves, said Kristy Rothe, an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor.
“We have everything from livestock, we have cattle, sheep, hogs, chickens, turkeys, a few peacocks here and there, but we also have a metal shop and a wood shop and a greenhouse,” she said.
The programs help students start their own ag businesses to make money for their post-high school plans, Rothe said.
“It’s been really wonderful to have this hundred acre farm to come out too every day and learn hands-on activities like breeding pigs and birthing them, and all of that fun stuff," Brennan said. "And then, having actually my own animals out here, which is kind of a dream come true, because I’ve always kind of wanted a cow, because I love them."
The students will be using their skills at an upcoming livestock judging competition, and many of them will also be showing their projects throughout the summer.