CHESTER, S.D. (KELO)– Late Wednesday night, Chester FFA members welcomed 20 new piglets into the world, 14 boars and 6 gilts.
Sylvia Wolters, Director of Public Relations for Pipestone System, said this project was important for the students because the association that people have with their food is becoming more and more distant, so having these students and their families involved with this project was important as they build a relationship with their food.
This was the first time Chester FFA has done this swine farrowing project. It is the first FFA chapter in the area to do a project like this, said Andrew Jensen, the Chester FFA advisor and Agricultural Education Teacher.
Jensen said very few of his students come from a production agriculture background or have livestock, so he wanted to do something that would show them what it is like.
“So much about ag and career technical education is the career part of it,” Jensen said.
He wanted to teach his students how to use artificial insemination (AI) so that it may spark an interest in them doing it as a profession someday.
“As an educator, I am constantly trying to push myself a little harder for my students because how many kids can say they got to spend the night in the shop farrowing out a sow?” Jensen said.
FFA member Amelia Callies said her involvement in this project was incredible. She said she enjoyed learning as she hadn’t had this kind of experience before.
“I’ve never actually lived on a farm and having to deal with animals in general has always been my favorite,” Callies said.
Twenty piglets was more than Jensen expected Peaches to have. He said on average a pig to normally has about 12 piglets.
“Typically, we don’t like to see our sow have any more than she can feed,” Jensen said.
A sow may not be able to handle 20 piglets, so in a typical production setting, this many piglets would be spread out to foster sows, he said.
This year-long animal science course has been very beneficial to his students, Jensen said. The students were able to dive in and learn about the industry and had more hands-on learning.
The class used its FFA Facebook page to livestream the farrowing process. The process was watched not only by students, family and staff, but by viewers from across the country. Jensen said it has been a great opportunity for people that do not have a background in production ag to watch and learn. Several people have reached out to the class with questions about the farrowing process.
“Last night, as we were farrowing the sow and she was having those babies, we were getting constant updates,” Jensen said. “It was really great for us to communicate with people outside of our shop here and to share our story as to really what ag is. We’ve been doing a daily update as well on Facebook about Peaches and everything she’s been doing and so I think that’s been really cool to kind of share our story.”
Jensen said that this project is one of their first steps to bridging the gap between consumers and producers.
Now that the piglets are born, the class plans to keep updating the Facebook and explaining the steps to viewers.
The pigs will stay with the class until the middle of March, so students will be feeding, watering and learning all about the ins and outs of cleaning and animal husbandry, Jensen said. Since the pigs cannot return to the original farm for biosecurity reasons, they the class started an adoption program that gives FFA members from around the state a chance to get the pigs for their own Supervised Agricultural Experience (S.A.E) projects after mid-March.
When he first started planning the project, Jensen did not think it would end up being as cool and big as it is.
“It’s been actually kind of mind-blowing,” Jensen said. “I didn’t think it would be quite as cool as it has turned out to be.”
Kaylor Gerates, FFA member, said the members were super excited to when they found out the project was going to happen. She said loved getting to help out with this project.
Jensen wants to continue to do the pig project every year.
“This only had 24-25 students involved in it…but it’s such a great opportunity,” Jensen said. “It showcases the knowledge of our students as well.”
Jensen’s classroom does have other livestock projects. Students tarted a poultry project this year with 10 laying hens that were donated by Dakota Layers, allowing kids to see where eggs come from and collect the fresh eggs. Students will be using these chickens in poultry evaluation and hen selection when they get to that section of the course. They also have some broilers that are being used in an agri-science project. In the past, they have had rabbits in the shop.
Jensen said ag education is so important because people need to know where their food is coming from.
“That’s been a really interesting part of what I have done as an ag teacher to kind of show them ‘okay this is where they’re going to start to get it to where it needs to go’,” Jensen said.
Jensen said he has several students who will go on to work in the agricultural industry and some in the past that have as well. A lot of the students tend to come back to the area, which is something Jensen says is great and important for the area.