4-H Beef Club earns national award

News Roundup from the May 2015 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

cattle in a pasture with ID tags

Brainstorming ideas for an invention that could change the world of agriculture got members of the Abbey-Lancer 4-H Beef Club of Pennant, Sask., thinking about an easier way to apply electronic identification tags without the use of tagging pliers.

In the end, they came up with not one, but two ideas to win the club category in 4-H Canada’s introductory Science and Technology Contest.

It takes quite a bit of pressure on the taggers to squeeze the CCIA (Canadian Cattle Identification Agency) tags onto the ear, explains club leader Pam Heller. Farm demographics have changed and today there are lots of older people, women, and kids taking care of cattle. Many don’t have the hand strength to give the pliers a good quick squeeze to lock the tags in place.

The club submitted ideas for a pistol-type applicator and for eliminating an applicator altogether by somehow encapsulating the electronic data in a magnetic rumen bolus of the sort commonly used to prevent hardware disease in cattle.

“The magnet seems to be the biggest one of interest,” Heller says. “It takes care of two things: traceability for the rest of the animal’s life and protection from hardware disease for a lifetime. The chance of a rumen magnet passing through an animal is very slim compared to the frequency of lost tags, but you’d need to have something noticeable, like taking a little ear snip, to know which calves already have a bolus.”

The club’s15 members, ages eight through 19 years, were truly surprised when they received news of the award because it was a project Heller encouraged them to take on just for the experience. Now they’re pumped on science!

That was 4-H Canada’s goal behind organizing the contest to introduce science and technology programming to 4-H’ers.

Winners in the individual category were Charlene Elliot of Kitchener, Ont., for her idea for machinery that cleans free-stall cow beds, and Isaac Boonstoppel of Scotchlake, New Brunswick, for his idea for a dairy stall cleaner.

Dalhousie University’s faculty of agriculture, Truro, Nova Scotia, put up gift cards as prizes, but was arranging with 4-H Canada to convert the club’s $750 gift card into a private tour of a science facility in Saskatchewan.

Put your thinking caps on early and watch for the announcement this September about the second 4-H Canada Science and Technology Contest.

The winners of that contest will have the chance to participate in the first annual 4-H National Science Fair next year for an opportunity to advance to the Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF), says 4-H Canada’s Jennifer Austin. The 4-H fair has been sanctioned by the CWSF as one of its participation streams. As many as 500 Grade 7 to 12 students representing regional science fairs participate in the CWSF. The 54th annual CWSF was hosted by the University of New Brunswick, May 11-16.

In other 4-H news, the Saskatchewan 4-H Council will receive $350,000 per year with a new three-year agreement under Growing Forward 2 now in place. According to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture’s news release, this is an increase of $50,000 a year over the last agreement. The ministry has been a Saskatchewan 4-H supporter for more than 20 years.

Saskatchewan 4-H has more than 200 clubs and 800 volunteer leaders.

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