(MADISON) For the past 15 years, Wisconsin youth who have exhibited Beef, Sheep, Swine, and Goats have been fortunate to participate in the Meat Animal Quality Assurance (MAQA) program. Since youth food animal producers raise thousands of food animals which contribute to the food supply, an understanding of how to produce a safe wholesome food product can only come from an educational program which focuses on the proper care and welfare of animals.
In a 2013 MAQA survey of Wisconsin youth 6th grade and older were asked a series of knowledge base questions both before and after taking a MAQA training, it was noted youth had gained important critical skills on animal care and ethical decision making because of this
While evaluating the MAQA program with the statewide committee, we realized the program’s success and an increasing demand to adapt the program to best utilize online technology. Additionally, the success of the quality assurance programs such as MAQA were being noticed by educators, industry professionals and national youth livestock exhibitions as an important educational program which was beneficial to help agriculture promote a more consistent and positive message across all species.
Therefore, a national multi-specie program was developed. Youth for the Quality Care of Animals (YQCA) was created for youth in Beef, Dairy, Goat, Poultry, Rabbit, Sheep, and Swine. YQCA will provide a common framework for food animal quality assurance programs which will
strengthen the youth educational experience, improve the care of food animals, and promote a higher level of consumer food safety. YQCA content and modules will demonstrate a progression of topic knowledge in designated age categories: Junior (8-11), Intermediate (12-14), Senior (15-18) and Young Adult (19-21).
Each year, youth complete one new module in each the following categories: Animal Welfare (basic needs, proper animal handling, biosecurity, etc.), Food Safety (medications, medicated feeds, withdrawal times, avoiding residue, etc.) and Character Education (ethics, goal setting,
career exploration, etc.)
YQCA gives ag families more flexibility in gaining this required certification, which is more convenient to accommodate busy seasonal schedules. It’s estimated that youth will spend roughly 60 minutes completing modules each year. Participating in the online program also
saves money on fuel and food costs that can come with attending trainings. A nominal fee will provide for the online delivery option and keeping the curriculum current.
YQCA illustrates the next generation of learning and can be offered to youth in a couple of ways:
Online curriculum – a youth exhibitor annually will complete three interactive online modules and corresponding quizzes. Available 24/7which allows exhibitors flexibility to take course at their convenience.
Face to face -Trainer led program
A test out option within each age bracket.
YQCA will replace Wisconsin’s MAQA program and the National Pork Board Youth PQA program, both of which will no longer be in existence.
Wisconsin 4-H and FFA leaders are pleased to share their joint support of this program which will be implemented in Wisconsin starting in the fall of 2017. In addition, Wisconsin State Fair and other national exhibitions will require certification in YQCA for participation in 2018 events.
You can keep up with Wisconsin’s preparation for YQCA by going to https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/youthlivestock or by following the Wisconsin Youth Livestock Program Facebook page. Bernie O’Rourke can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
O’Rourke is the Extension Youth Livestock Specialist at UW-Madison in the Animal Sciences Department.