It was a family affair June 27 when students from a summer day program visited the South Dakota State University Foundation’s Opportunities Farm south of Lennox, S.D.
Not only did farm manager Matt Loewe and his wife, Paula, make presentations about livestock and cow rations on the farm, but their 9-year-old daughter, Madeline, joined in the tour program to talk about hogs.
And a talker she was.
She explained to the 85 children on the tour about where the cuts of meat come from on a hog, the differences and names of male and female pigs and even about the guiding sticks used while showing hogs in 4-H competition.
It was a receptive audience of kindergarten through fifth-grade children from the Lutheran Social Services Child Care and Education Services Southern Hills location.
“How many of you like bacon?” Madeline asked. All of the 20 kids in one group raised their hands. She explained that bacon comes from the stomach area of a pig.
“How many of you like ham?” she then asked. Once again, they all raised their hands. “It comes from the sides along the tail of the hog,” she said, pointing out that area of the animal.
As for the guiding sticks, she said that instead of a whip or a pointed stick, she prefers a PVC pipe wrapped in duct tape. She explained that it’s not meant to hurt the hogs, but to get their attention and move them along when showing them.
Madeline also explained on the sultry day that pigs can’t sweat as her younger sister, Kathryn, 6, sprayed the pigs with a garden hose and they rolled in the mud, much to the delight of the children.
“They just roll in the mud to stay cool,” she said, even though they are very clean animals.
Meanwhile, at the same tour station, Ashley Gelderman, who will start as an SDSU Extension swine specialist in a few weeks at the regional center in Sioux Falls, used a pinup board to show the children all of the products that come from pigs including insulin, chalk, crayons, lipstick, mascara, glue, valves for heart surgeries on humans and other medicines.
“Thank you, piggies,” several children yelled after hearing the presentation.
It was just one of many amusing comments from the children as they moved from station to station on the farm, where about 800 cattle are fed and about 1,120 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat are grown to give older students, especially those at SDSU, a chance to learn about agriculture.
Some other remarks overheard from the children:
• While walking through a cattle chute, one of the kids said, “I’ll never come here again, it stinks too bad.”
• As one of the kids was entering a feed bunker to hear a presentation on cow rations, he said, “I hope there aren’t any tarantulas in here.”
• Another added when asked where the cows stay, “I think some of the cows are homeless.”
The kids seemed to enjoy every minute.
“I think’s it’s awesome,” said Haley DeWit when asked what she thought about the visit.
Matt Loewe, who has managed the farm for 11 years after it was given to the SDSU Foundation by benefactor LeRoy Poppens in 2001, talked to the children about the cattle and the feedlot, starting by telling how the calves each get a vaccination when they are processed similar to when kids enter school and are required to get shots.
Loewe said there are three separate feedlots on the farm, one a total confinement lot, another a partial confinement lot and one an open lot. The setup allows research on feedlot designs as well as on the cattle in each area.
Loewe said the partial confinement lot, although it costs the most to construct, has the lowest cost for rate of gain on the cattle.
His wife, Paula, along with Megan Nielsen, a youth livestock field specialist for SDSU Extension from the Mitchell Regional Center, talked about cattle diet and the feed rations.
Kelly Nelson of Ag United talked about the dairy industry, and the children learned more about corn by going through the South Dakota Corn Growers Association’s “Amazing Corn Adventure” interactive trailer where Paula Loewe’s sister, Brenda Johnson of Britton, S.D., helped shepherd them through the exhibit.
A counselor said the children didn’t want to leave their video games to come on the tour, but once there, they all had fun – except maybe when a few stepped in some fresher cow pies lying around in a pasture.