Heritage High School uses donor cows to teach, learn
By Nancy Kemp | Blount County Schools
Heritage High School’s livestock management students have developed a regional reputation for “adopting” young heifers, and they are preparing their second “donor” heifer for competition in March.
The donation of a heifer for high school students to fatten up, break and show was a new concept for Jon Waters, one of the school’s agriculture instructors. John Loy of Luttrell offered a young heifer last year to the Heritage program, which has now leaped into a second year of success. Water’s students were recently offered a second heifer, this one from northern Kentucky.
Funds from the sale of these heifers are split between the school’s Future Farmers of America chapter and the Tennessee Gelbvieh Association. Show ribbons and their cash rewards are given to the student who is primarily responsible for the training and upkeep of the heifer.
In a few weeks, Miss Bar4, as their latest “adopted” heifer is known, will be presented at one of the biggest cattle shows in the area, the Tennessee Beef Agribition in Lebanon. She has been under the loving care of Waters’ livestock management class, especially two students: Dakota Robinson, a junior who was responsible for MissBar4 in the fall exhibitions, and Cody Renfro, a senior who will be responsible for her at the upcoming exhibition.
The donation of livestock is a “win-win” for the HHS program, Waters said. “We don’t have the money to buy these animals for the students to work with and learn from, the students don’t have the money to buy them, so the donor heifers afford us the opportunities to help everyone.”
Waters’ students have fattened up MissBar4 to 1,100 pounds. While she has many strong characteristics, Waters’ doesn’t expect her to win a blue ribbon for first place and he is hoping for a second or third place finish.
Waters hopes that the cow, which was artificially inseminated on Valentine’s Day, and her prospective calf will bring at auction close to $2,000 for her Kentucky owner. At the same time, his students have gained experience in showmanship, cattle management and beef production.
In addition to the use of cows for exhibition development, Waters said many of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) classes are embracing the agri-science objectives of livestock management. Students have used the program’s small cattle herd in DNA sampling, and they have participated in the artificial insemination process and used ultrasound technology on the cows.