Getting the best meal to your plate starts with the quality care for livestock, and a program in Ohio is helping children learn that lesson.
Assuring Quality Care for Animals is a training program that kids in Ohio 4-H — a network of educational youth development organizations throughout the state — are required by law to go through if they have undertaken a project that involves animals. Ohio 4-H is also the Ohio State extension of the national 4-H organization.
AQCA teaches 4-H youth the best practices for producing quality animal products for their consumers and for the welfare of large livestock and companion animals.
“We wanted to make it a holistic program where we really emphasized animal well-being, welfare, and total animal care for all species of animals in all 4H projects,“ said Lucinda Miller, extension specialist for 4-H Youth Development Companion and Small Animal Programs, who was one of the original planners of the program.
AQCA works with specialists throughout the Department of Animal Sciences at Ohio State in order to provide the best resources for these kids and for their animals.
AQCA is now required throughout the entire state of Ohio, with certified educators in each of Ohio’s 88 counties.
The youth who take part in AQCA have completed 82,000 projects and about 68,000 of the projects focus on market animals such as lactating dairy animals, laying hens and any animal that creates a product for public consumption.
Elizabeth Share, a livestock specialist at Ohio State and food animal specialist for 4-H, said animals that are well taken care of are a huge step toward creating wholesome and healthy products.
“We want our youth to understand what we have to do to get that,” Share said.
4-H also teaches participants in AQCA Good Production Practices, when learning how to care animals.
This past year, training for 4-H educators focused on GPPs such as vaccinations, the proper medication of animals and feeding animals a healthy diet.
The other 24,000 projects looked at care for companion animals, or pets, such as dogs, cats, chickens and horses.
For children who may not have the space to care for large livestock animals, Miller said 4-H has a companion animal project that helps include those who may live in an urban or suburban area. These projects require the children to not only take care of the animal’s health, but to train them too.
Understanding the importance of animal’s lives is a large part of AQCA, said Miller.
“They are responsible for that animal. The animal relies on them for full care,” Miller said, “We want them to do that in the most humane way as possible.”
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