The art of ag: Los Fresnos FFA - Valley Morning Star : Slice Of Life

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The art of ag: Los Fresnos FFA

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Posted: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 9:27 pm

As morning light cut through slats in the roof of the Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District Agricultural Barn, students and an instructor were hard at work preparing animals for a whirlwind of upcoming livestock shows.

Los Fresnos CISD agricultural science instructor and Future Farmers of America advisor D.J. Wernecke spent Tuesday morning working with his students, who were grooming, fitting, conditioning and feeding hogs and goats in order to prepare the animals for the Tip-O-Tex Livestock Show on Friday in San Benito.

Wernecke said it’s the first show of the season and is followed by the Cameron County Livestock Show in Los Fresnos from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 and then the grand finale of livestock shows in Mercedes, the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show from March 7 to 16.

Sarah Higgerson, a senior at Los Fresnos High School, cheerleading team captain and former FFA officer, said she’s been raising her hog, Boe Duke, since it was weaned from its mother last year in early November.

“When I got him as a piglet, he only weighed probably 20 pounds,” she said, pointing at the 153-pound hog who was interacting with its neighbor in the next pen. “He’s gotten a lot bigger now.”

Higgerson feeds Boe Duke twice a day, and the hog is eating more than a gallon of feed each day.

“Now that they’re getting bigger and it’s getting into our show season, we try to walk them for maybe 30 minutes,” Higgerson said. “They get worn out after that. We want to work them out to build muscle and also get them fatter and stuff like that.”

Jennifer Atkinson, a senior, cheerleader and FFA member, said while cleaning her hog Faith’s pen, that this is her first year in Wernecke’s class.

“I love it,” Atkinson said, explaining that she grew up on farms and ranches so raising Faith came natural to her.

She said she formed a bond with her hog.

“She loves to rub her nose up against me,” Atkinson said with a laugh, as Faith poked her head between her knees, getting her attention. “I always pray over her before I leave.”

However, both Atkinson and Higgerson said there’s more to learning about raising livestock, FFA and their agricultural science course. The work instills responsibility in both of them.

Wernecke said that’s one of his goals with the program.

“The grooming, fitting, conditioning, feeding and taking care of the animals teaches responsibility, which is one of the number one key aspects of the program,” Wernecke said, adding that the first thing he teaches in class is leadership skills.

But Higgerson and Atkinson are just one small slice of the many students Wernecke teaches and of the 550 FFA members in the district.

“We have all walks of life in agriculture. It’s for everybody, and the door is open for everyone,” Wernecke said.

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