The Texas 4-H Livestock Ambassador program strives to provide high school aged 4-H members the opportunity to develop and practice advanced leadership skills related to mentoring other youth, and to become advocates for animal agriculture.
- Prepare youth to serve in leadership capacities in junior livestock programs across Texas.
- Prepare youth for the experience of the University setting, through intensive science based instruction and experiences.
- Prepare and provide opportunities for youth to serve in advocacy roles for animal agriculture, 4-H, and junior livestock programs.
- Develop a heightened awareness of career opportunities in animal agriculture and advocacy.
Americans enjoy a food supply that is abundant, affordable, and among the world’s safest, thanks in large part to the efficiency and productivity of America’s farm and ranch families. . .
. . . but what about the future? Agriculture is a thriving, but challenged industry in America and across the world. For many youth in America, agriculture is just what they see and purchase in the grocery store or a restaurant, or hear from a negative news story. However, the facts about agriculture in America are:
- Today’s farmers produce 262 percent more food with 2 percent fewer inputs (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.), compared with 1950;
- One in three U.S. farm acres is planted for export;
- 31 percent of U.S. gross farm income comes directly from exports;
- U.S. farm programs typically cost each American just pennies per meal and account for less than one-half of 1 percent of the total U.S. budget.
In 2007, the Texas 4-H and Youth Development Program took the initiative to begin developing the next generation of advocates for agriculture, and more specifically, the livestock industry. Through the creation of the Texas 4-H Livestock Ambassador Program a new generation of knowledgeable, educated, and well-spoken youth have emerged in Texas to teach other youth and adults the skills of being good stewards, producers, and exhibitors of beef cattle, sheep, goats, and swine.
These young people are filling a void left vacant by a lack of adult volunteers. They have served as educators to younger youth and for adult volunteers, and have spoken about the importance of the animal industry to elected officials, industry leaders, and educators throughout Texas. More than $915,000 in volunteer time has been given back to Texas agriculture over the past three years through the work and dedication of these young people. Through every step of the young Ambassador’s experience, they grow, learn, and appreciate their role in being a strong voice for the livestock industry in Texas and the United States.
Students completing the requirements to become a Texas 4-H Livestock Ambassador become accountable to his/her County Extension Agent, their community and the program. Ambassadors must contribute 40 hours of service in presenting topics in agriculture advocacy, nutrition, selection, daily maintenance and care, showmanship, sportsmanship, preparing new 4-H families for show, and management of show animals during a livestock show. Additionally, the ambassadors teach livestock ethics and animal care to the novice 4-H families. An online reporting system allows the program to capture the educational efforts of the unique leaders. The results have been incredible.
• 274 Livestock Ambassador trained-50 this year
• Each averages more than 150 contact hours contributed
• Over 18,000 contact hours
• Economic value to Texas: $1,326,000-$150,000 this past year alone
• “Helping others is so rewarding, I realize now that I have something to offer…people look up to me”
• “This has been a life changing experience…I want to learn more”
Selected students are exposed to rigorous college level animal science. The “Short Courses” on the campuses of Texas Tech and Texas A&M University are the settings where the educational experiences occur. Professors and Extension Specialists lead the students through the advanced curriculum. The professors provide questions contributing to the 150 question final exam the students must pass with an 80%. Purposeful construction of the curriculum; fused with a commitment to hands on learning have generated exceptional knowledge gained outcomes.
The program exposes youth to a diverse array of career opportunities in degree programs from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Texas Tech University. Testimonials were given regarding the power of a degree in agricultural education with respect to job interviews, placement and competition. Students make valuable contacts with people that offer assistance in career development. Industry representatives provide contact information to students and as Ambassadors they were granted unique access to leaders in Texas Agriculture through program activities.
In 2010, in a research study, students were tested on his/her livestock production knowledge before and after the short course. The exam was 100 questions, multiple choice and short answer. The average before was 49% and elevated to an outstanding 75% at the conclusion of the course. Further investigating knowledge gained students received a livestock production expertise instrument administered pre and post course.
Positive reports of student achievement from our partner universities have become the norm. Livestock Ambassadors are leading student organizations, serving in critical student worker positions, staff for elected officials, national champions in competitive events, serving as ambassadors for his/her university, coordinating educational programs and mentoring new students.
The goal is to expand the reach of the program to other regions of the state, expand the presence of Livestock Ambassadors with regional and major livestock shows and fairs, and increase the ongoing support of current Ambassadors through technology and additional training opportunities.