By Aaron Holliday
The second seminar of this year’s Pork Leadership Program May 9 in Lincoln gave our group the opportunity to participate in a regular board meeting of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association. This meeting covered everything from what the NPPA is doing for community education and enrichment, pork advocacy events planned for the year, and issues directly affecting overall pork production in the state. One of the cool things happening on the education side, is that the NPPA is working with the Nebraska Farm Bureau to bring virtual farm tours to second-grade and fifth-grade students throughout the state. These virtual tours give kids the opportunity to see where and how pigs are raised, and to ask questions to the individuals raising them. These virtual tours have been beneficial for teachers and schools alike because it fits within their science and technology curriculums, and also brings a cost savings because children don’t have to be bussed to and from farms. Producers that have participated in these virtual tours have really enjoyed it because it gives them the ability to educate young, curious minds without having to risk potential biosecurity breaches.
During the lunch hour, we were able to have Kris Bousquet, executive director of the Nebraska State Dairy Association, give us an overview on some of the topics the dairy industry is faced with today and how they are revamping education to address these issues. One of the ways they are doing this is with an annual event at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo called “Moo at the Zoo.” This event allows people from all over the chance to acquaint themselves with various breeds of dairy cattle, and to ask questions to the producers raising these animals. At the conclusion of the board of directors meeting, we were able to attend the Nebraska’s FFA Foundation’s “Mission True Blue” program. This meeting featured past and present FFA members that were able to share their experiences and how the FFA program impacted their personal lives. In addition, they showed us the great work they are doing with many communities in Nebraska to educate and bring an understanding of agriculture to the masses.
The next day, May 10, we started by taking a tour of Neogen/Geneseek. Located in Lincoln, they conduct comprehensive disease and genomic testing. They handle testing for the livestock industry, as well as for the canine and eucalyptus industries, just to name a few. After our tour we headed back to the NPPA office for lunch and a presentation by the National Pork Board on topics such as getting pork on more dinner tables in the U.S., and what marketing campaigns are being used to achieve this. We ended our day at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a meeting with Dr. Amy Schmidt and Dr. Ty Schmidt. Dr. Amy Schmidt and her team work in the areas of nutrient, soil, and water quality management. Her research is applied in real world settings as she is able to help farmers throughout the state doing extension work, as well. Dr. Ty Schmidt, a meat scientist, showed us the work his team is doing on individual animal identification in the pork industry. With the assistance of cameras and utilizing deep learning, his goal is to one day be able to identify potential health risks by each individual animal so producers can better care for their herds. For two days the Leadership group was able to be involved in meetings, tours, and educational seminars that will help us continue to improve the industry now, and in the future.