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Crockett livestock program breeds success

Students in the Livestock Management Program at David Crockett High School play a significant role in the experiential learning courses that are preparing them for a variety of careers.
Agriculture Instructor David Little said the students take a lot of pride in the campus facility they helped build.
“They have worked so hard to make it what it is,” he said. “If you had walked down here four years ago, you wouldn’t have recognized it.”
Three older cows, a cluttered pasture, and a barn that was being used to store maintenance equipment greeted Little when he arrived on the job.
“Over the years, the students have worked to clean up the facility and make it functional,” he said.
The barn now contains feeding stalls, a calving cow stall, a weaning stall and lot, a tack room, and an arena and corral.
Crockett also has the largest herd and possibly the largest school farm in the state, according to Dr. William Flanary, director of secondary education.
Two-week-old Jersey calves weighing approximately 75 pounds are purchased from a local dairy, and students raise them throughout the year until they reach market weight.
Approximately 25 calves are purchased each year, with the same number of older cattle sold at market.
Little said students built the section of stalls in the barn where the calves are kept for six weeks until they are weaned. Students feed them twice a day with bottles, and can be caring for up to 10 bottle calves at any time.
The calves are then moved to a weaning stall for a week where they begin to eat a different kind of feed. After that, they are turned out every day to graze in the 2.5 acres of pasture and brought back to the barn for the night.
Crockett students also care for and manage a herd of 36 beef cattle made up of mixed Jersey, Hereford and Angus. The cow-to-calf operation currently has six beef cows raising their own calves.
Students are involved in every aspect of raising the livestock, from applying ear tags to performing castrations and dehorning. They also learn principles of halter breaking and proper procedures to lead and corral animals to place in the head gate for vaccinations or medications.
The livestock are taken out daily so the students can practice handling them. They also learn how to prepare and distribute the feed.
Partnerships have been formed with faculty and students in other classes who helped build the feeders and wire the barn.
“With not much money available, this has been really helpful,” Little said.
Support is also received from community members.
“We supplement with feed and hay because we don’t have enough pasture, and we rely on the community,” Little said. An average of 85 round bales are used during the winter, and all of the hay is donated.
According to Little, students take their responsibilities seriously and often come in on weekends and during holiday breaks to check on the animals.
Senior Luke Cole is considering a degree in agricultural business or crop sciences from the University of Tennessee.
“I plan to be in business for myself and grow our family farm,” he said.
Though Cole already had experience working with the 100 head of cattle at home, he enjoys the program at Crockett.
“You can’t learn any of this in a book,” he said. “It’s also a great stepping stone for any agricultural field.”
Junior Logan Tarlton is also looking at a future in farming and agriculture.
Tarlton said the equipment used to tag the calves is just like an ear piercer with a bigger needle, and heat burners are used to take off the horns.
“I like being out in the barn and watching the calves grow,” he said.
But after raising them yourselves, what is taking them to market like?
“Cash in the bank,” they answered in unison.
“You can have one pet,” said Tarlton, who has a cow he has raised from birth. After that, it’s just part of the work required in this field.
Tarlton said guys in the class don’t name the calves, and even the girls refer to them by their tag numbers.
Little said the eventual sale of the animals is an aspect discussed in the program. “They know that’s part of the business,” he said.
When the cows reach approximately 800 pounds, they are sent to market. Beef cattle are taken to the slaughterhouse, and the meat comes back to the school for sale to teachers and the community.
Dairy cattle are sold at the stockyard. Little said students are allowed to purchase a calf and raise it at Crockett if they also pay for the milk replacer and feed. When the cow reaches proper weight, Crockett will haul it to market, and the student can use the proceeds for college.
“Seventy percent of students who go through the class will have some involvement with a farm,” Cole said.
Senior Starlitt Mann serves as Farm Manager at Crockett and is one of only two class members certified to drive the tractor used to move hay bales.
Students must pass a tractor safety test following an instruction course taught by Little to become certified.
“Not many girls help out a lot,” she said. “I asked, and he let me. I’m pretty excited about it.”
Mann would like to work with large animals as a veterinary technician.
Sophomore Nathan Kincheloe said he is gaining good experience through the program that will aid him in a career in agriculture.
“It’s better to be hands on than just book work, and Crockett has a really good program,” he said.
Kimberly Dykes, a freshman, is considering a career as a veterinarian. Though she has not dehorned one of the animals yet, she has banded a calf, which is a method of castration.
Flanary said the school does not keep male reproductive animals on campus because of the potential danger.
“We are fortunate our mayor has some prize-winning bulls, and we are able to get some help from him,” he said.
According to Flanary, Crockett alum Dan Eldridge breeds and cares for Crockett’s beef cattle on his farm at no charge during the summer months.