Sampling Sudan

This week I got to spend more time with Travis Bunn. As I continued to work on the AI spreadsheet, I also got to spend some time out in the field. I got to travel with Travis to see some Sudan grass fields that he had planted late spring. The fields were planted to be harvested, baled, and wrapped to ferment into a higher quality forage for livestock.

When we got to the Sudan grass fields, It was obvious that they were much greater quality than any other grass hay. It was nothing but thick, luscious dark green blades. We then took cuttings with some clippers and chopped stalks into a zip lock bag so it could be sent off and analyzed. For the fresh sample that was sent off, Travis was wanting to test for nitrates since it had been fairly dry. Stressful conditions like drought can cause Sudan grass to build up nitrates in the lower portion of the stem. If large amounts of nitrates are consumed in a short amount of time then it can be lethal to cattle. After cutting a sample of the fresh Sudan, we went to Travis’s home farm and looked at some Sudan hay that had been mowed 4 days prior. It had already been baled and wrapped but we were looking at the leftover stalks and leaves left on the ground. We took a sample and were interested in the moisture content of the sample 4 days after mowing compared to the fresh sample that was just took. The samples came back and the fresh sample did not contain any nitrates and the moisture content was around 90%. The 4 day post cutting sample contained 45% moisture which almost guarantees that someone could not make this forage as a dry hay. It would take too long to dry and would be too big of a risk with weather.

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Fun With Suds #2

This week, like the last, was a very short week. I worked Monday, Tuesday, and half a day on Wednesday. Tuesday was the only day that was busy because we went back to Stuart Baptist Church to make hand soaps, lotions, and shampoo. On Monday and Wednesday, it was slow and the majority of the time I spent working on the AI spreadsheet. In my spare time I would run errands and do some things for Tamica like moving files and shredding more papers.

On Tuesday, we picked up all the materials to make the soap on the way to the church. The adults who were in charge of the camp split the kids into two groups to keep the activity from getting to crowded. So the first group of kids got to start making lotion while the other group got to play outside on the playground. To start with, the kids would get a base of a white lotion. They would then come to my table where they would pick a color and a scent to mix in their lotion. After stirring it all together they would have their own homemade lotion. Then they moved on to the hand soap, it was much like the lotion where we poured them a base solution, but they would get the choice of a color and scent to go in it. The final soap that we made was shampoo. Just like the lotion and hand soap, the shampoo was made exactly the same. Add the color and scent to the base solution that was given to them and they get their own bright incense to use at home. After the first group was done, they were switched up and the second group came in to make soap while the first group went outside to play. The kids really enjoyed this and it was really fun to watch the kids enjoy such a neat activity.

Although nothing much went on this week, I was able to enjoy watching the kids have fun making soap that will help them improve and exercise overall hygiene.

Fun With Suds

This week was a very short week. I only worked Monday and Tuesday because Travis Bunn and Leigh Ann Hazelwood were both out of the office on vacation. But with them being out, I got to spend a little more time with Tamica Reynolds, our Unit Administrative Assistant. On Monday I spent the day doing various things like shredding files from 4-H camp from 5 years ago, running errands like getting the mail and sending off forage samples, and working on the AI spreadsheet for Travis’s program. Towards the end of the day, Tamica and I went to the storage unit to grab soaps, scents, colors, and molds for the soap making we would be teaching to the kids at a day camp the next day.

Tuesday we started the day off by going to Stuart Baptist Church for the kids day camp. We brought all the materials needed for soap making that we would be would be teaching. Each kid was going to have the chance to make a unique body soap with their own scent and color. We set all the supplies up and we started melting the soap, then each kid got a mold to make their soap take shape. Kristy and I manned the scent and color table where each kid would get 5 drops of each to put in their soap. After stirring the scent and color into the melted soap, they poured the mix into their mold. All that was left was to wait. After the kids soap dried, we wrapped them in plastic so they would not make a mess on the way home. We then packed up and headed back to the office. The rest of the day was slow and I didn’t do much besides work on Travis’s AI program spreadsheet. The spreadsheet contains cattle IDs for farmers that participated in the program. It also contains the cows patch color from synchronizing the cows, who the AI technician was, the bull that was used for AI, if the cow was bred AI or by bull, and what gender the calf is. I worked on entering information that was gathered when the cows were last worked into the spreadsheet.

This week, I was able to spend time with different people and experience new things like making soap. It was also nice to work with kids again because I have gained much experience over the summer working with them. Although the kids and soap making were a joy, I always love to be able to work on something that involves livestock.

Kids on the Move

For the week of June 17th – 21st, the Patrick County Extension Office hosted the Kids on the Move Day Camp. The kids that attended were between the ages of 5 and 12 years old. This camp was a great opportunity for both the kids and myself. The kids got to experience awesome and fun things like visiting a farm, touring a private airport, going bowling, and attending the Farmers Market. This camp is an awesome experience for both the kids and myself because these are things that we are not use to seeing in our everyday lives. Some of these experiences could even inspire the kids for their future professions like being a pilot or even a farmer. But most of all, I had fun being around the kids and learning more about being involved in the development of the youth.

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On the first day of the camp, we met at DeHart Park. We spent the entire day there as we had to make sure every camper there had a white shirt that they could tie dye. We did this so that on Friday when we walked to the Farmers Market, we could easily see which kids were in our group. Out of four groups, we worked each group around so that they could personally tie dye their own shirt. As each group worked on their shirts, the other three groups got to go around different stations and play fun games like Badminton, Frisbee, Checkers, and Dominoes. After every group made their shirts, we went to lunch from 12:00 to 1:00. Then, it was time for the pool! At 1:00 everyday of the week, the kids and the adults too got to get in the pool.

On Tuesday, we went to the Blue Ridge Airport that is located in Spencer, VA. We met at DeHart Park to start things off and let the kids eat breakfast. We then boarded a school bus and headed to the airport. Once we got there, the receptionist went over the rules of the airport and showed everyone around the terminal and lobby area. We then headed out onto the runway to tour the AirCare and AirLife helicopters which are two helicopters that are used to transport patients to hospitals in critical condition. We were then shown a single engine airplane. It was very interesting to see because they were working there way up showing us bigger airplanes and telling us how far each one could travel which correlated to how much fuel it could hold. We then were shown a bigger and cooler two engine jet that could travel probably ten times as far as the first airplane. This airplane could carry close to 600 gallons of fuel as is the other smaller one could only carry close to 75 gallons.

After that, it was our time to leave. But when leaving, the receptionist and a worker at the airport informed us that a jet that was twice the size of the previous jet was landing in almost ten minutes. So we couldn’t say no to such a cool experience. We waited for the jet to land and the kids thought it was awesome. This jet held close to 10,000 gallons of fuel and could travel from that airport in Spencer all the way to Hawaii without refiling! After watching the big jet land, we left and went back to eat lunch and swim at DeHart Park.

On Wednesday, our field trip was to go bowling! After all the kids arrived and ate their breakfast, we went to Tin Pen Bowling Alley in Stuart, VA. We spent almost two hours at the center and the kids had a blast. Most of the adults played their own game and let the kids play with kids of similar age. We were able to get two good games of bowling in with about 6 or 7 people playing at each alley. Again, we left the bowling alley and went to DeHart park to regroup and eat lunch. The kids were then released to go to swim until 3:00.

Thursday was my favorite day out of all the others. This is the day that we took a field trip to the Pendleton Farm. As usual, we met at DeHart Park and at Breakfast and then loaded the bus. We then went south towards North Carolina which is where the farm was located. We arrived at the farm and April Pendleton greeted us. She then split the kids into four groups as there were four stations for them to visit. The first station was a lesson about wool from a sheep and what can be made from it like pillows and blankets and other neat items.

The second station was all about a cattle. They used a show steer as a “prop” to help teach the kids about the species. He taught the kids about about what cattle should be called like a bull, heifer, steer, or cow. He also taught them about the different breeds of cattle like Angus, Charolais, Herefords, and Simmentals. After that, he talked about the diet and tendencies of cattle and what makes them so unique.

The third station was about sheep. They showed each group how to sheer the sheep and the kids got to actually sheer a sheep themselves.

The last station was about honeybees. They taught us about how a colony of bees work and what caste system the bees fall in. They also taught us how bees make there honey which grossed out a couple of the kids because honey is regurgitated from a bees mouth, which technically means honey is bee spit. We ended the day like usual. We went back to DeHart, ate lunch, and finished with swimming.

After a long and exciting week, it had to come to an end. The day was Friday and our last field trip was a trip to the Farmers Market. Like usual, we met at DeHart for breakfast. But this time we weren’t riding a bus, we were going to walk since the farmers market was right in town. I brought the Extension Office drone with me that way I could get some aerial shots of the kids walking to the market and some of the farmers market itself. Once they got to the market, several groups were allowed to peruse the items for sale and were even able to buy some things if they were $2.00 or less. But while some of the groups were browsing the items for sale, the other groups were at a store across the street crafting wind chimes out of nothing but a plastic cup, some yarn, and some beads. Once all the kids got through making their wind chimes and buying what they wanted from the Farmers Market, we began the trek back to the park. As usual, we got back to the park and ate lunch. Since this was the last day, I too got in the pool and swam for the entire time. This was a big mistake as I have no tanning past my elbow and I did not apply sunscreen, so you could only imagine how red I got. But even though I was sun burnt across my back, shoulders, and chest I had a great time while at the pool with the kids.

This week was an amazing experience for both the kids and myself. I gained valuable time and experience around the youth and got to to see new and exciting things while doing so.

A Familiar Sight

This week, I got the opportunity to travel back to Virginia Tech for a Livestock In-Service Conference with Travis Bunn. The In-Service was hosted at the Alphin- Stuart Arena from June the 11th to the 13th. As agriculture is my main point of interest, particularly livestock, I was very excited to be given the chance to attend this conference. The topic of focus was reproduction and genetics which I believe are two of the most important factors in making money in cattle farming. Without genetically sound cattle that will reproduce efficiently every year, then there is no money to be made in the cattle business.

The conference started at 1:00 PM that Tuesday and Extension agents from all over the state started to roll in. The first day we talked about the critical factors and decisions related to reproduction and genetics, the reproductive physiology of cattle, genetically improving cattle (within and across different breeds), and reproductive technologies like artificial insemination and embryo transfer in cows. After that we had a break before dinner where everyone could get checked into their housing. We then came back and had a nice dinner.

The next day, the conference started at 8:00 AM. We went through some more reproduction management tools and we also talked about some heifer development and selection strategies. Next, we went over applications of different synchronization programs. I learned a lot from this as I’ve always pondered the idea of synchronizing my owns cows and artificially inseminating them. This is more practical and efficient to do so instead of natural breeding. And then, another extension agent shared her own experience of helping producers utilize artificial insemination. We then went to lunch and got ready for the hands on workshop. During the workshop, we were able to watch a bull be Breeding Soundness tested, practice dire selection by picking a bull for a specific producers goals, and have hands on experience with manipulating the reproductive tract of a cow. After the hands on portion, we went back to the classroom and discussed crossbreeding and heterosis and how it is a underutilized tool in livestock. We then discussed genomics and how commercial cattlemen can understand them.

The final day was a very short day, but we started it off by listening to faculty that are in the department of Animal and Poultry Science talk about what they are currently researching. We were then given updates from the State Veterinaries Office, the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association, and the Youth Livestock and Equine Programs. After that, it was time to head home.

During this week, I got to be apart of a great experience in a field that I am more comfortable with. Although I have enjoyed the new experience of working with the kids and the 4-H program the last couple weeks, I enjoy being around agriculture and livestock the most.

4-H Camp

It’s here! The week of 4-H camp has finally come! After many weeks of working hard to help get everything ready for this camp, I can finally take a breath and enjoy this awesome experience. This being my first time ever going to camp, it was going to be a complete learning experience. Although I was very excited to go to camp, I was also very nervous because I have never had much experience working around kids. But my inexperience was soon to be changed as close to 300 kids were to be arriving at camp.

We started out the week by arriving at Rotary Field and gathering all the Patrick County Campers. After all campers arrived, we loaded them on the bus and we were off to Smith Mountain Lake! We arrived and all the other campers from Pulaski and Craig were already there. We headed to Open Air, which is a large building with all open sides, and had an opening assembly where all staff members, adults, and teens introduced themselves. The rest of the day was spent getting kids sorted into the packs that they would be in for the entire week and getting everyone in their right lodge. The packs included the squirrels, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, wolves, rabbits, deer, and ducks. At the end of the day, there was a carnival with blow up slides, bouncy houses, and all kinds of other games that the kids could play with. We ended the day with the opening campfire which was led by the wonderful staff.

The next day was a completely different day. Through Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, there were three class periods that the kids would attend. They got to choose between several fun classes like canoeing, rock climbing, archery, riflery, airplanes and rocketry, and many more. After the classes on Tuesday, the kids were treated with a pool party, competed in Field Olympics, and were given watermelon to finish the day.

On Wednesday, the kids went to classes just like on Tuesday. After classes were finished, it was time for the camper talent show. Everyone gathered around the amphitheater and watched some great performances. Later that evening, the kids had the choice between going to the neon dance party or going to a movie. I chose to go to the movie because I’ve never really been a dancer. They played Hotel Transylvania 3 as the movie and a little girl ended up falling asleep on my arm by the end of the movie.

On Thursday, it was the last day of classes so I spent most of the day flying the drone around and taking pictures of the kids at their classes. After all the classes were finished up, the adults and teens had their own talent show which was really funny. The kids got a big laugh out of the teens performances. To finish the day off, we had the closing campfire which was led mostly by the pack leaders. Each camper at the campfire was given a candle to light and once every camper lit there candle it looked like the entire camp circle was glowing.

Friday was our very last day of being at camp. We woke up and went straight to open air to take a group picture. We were going to take the picture at the amphitheater but it was rainy day so open air was our only other choice. We then went to breakfast and began to pack all of our things after that. We left out just before lunch from camp and got back to Rotary field around 2:00 p.m. From then, kids were picked up by parents and the week was over.

During the week of 4-H camp, I gained a lot of experience from working with all the kids. I learned that there are many opportunities to work in the field of extension outside of agriculture. Youth education is a big part of extension and being able to be apart of kids learning something that everyone can enjoy.

Eyes in the Sky

After my second week on the job at the Extension Office, I got to experience both sides of the spectrum in extension. From going on a farm visit and flying a drone with Travis Bunn (the Natural Resource and Ag Extension Agent) to preparing for 4-H camp with Leigh Ann Hazelwood (the 4-H Extension Agent).

We started the week off short as Monday was Memorial Day, but as soon as we were back in the office we were back at it again getting everything ready for 4-H camp. Many things had to be done before the end of the week. We had to make all the booklets for each individual camper, CIT, Teen, and Adult which contained a schedule of the week, menus for the meals, their responsibilities, their classes, and even a map of the camp center. On Wednesday, I got to spend my very first day with Travis Bunn. We traveled to Rocky Mount, VA to pick up some Sudan grass seed so that it can be planted and used for a research project. We were only away from the office until lunch time, so there was plenty of time for Travis to show me how to fly the drone. The drone is fairly simple to set up as you only have to attach the propellers and install the battery before using. But for some reason, we could not get the controller to connect. The next day that I was in the office, which was Friday, I worked on getting the drone airborne again. After installing a couple of updates it finally was ready to fly. I flew the drone around for awhile and got some good practice with it before taking it to 4-H camp. The rest of the day, I helped get supplies out of storage that were being taken to 4-H camp, and we also took tables and other supplies to Rotary Field to set up for 4-H open house.

Although this was my shortest week at the office, it was one of the most enjoyable weeks because I got to do a little of everything. I also look forward to working with Travis and the agricultural side of extension after the camps slow down.