Students Have no Beef with Raising Cattle for Food

10:41AM Apr 25, 2014
( )

School program helps students learn about raising cattle and supplies beef to the cafeteria.
By: RACHEL E. SHEELEY, Palladium-Item

HAGERSTOWN, Ind. (AP) — Three Angus Cross cattle occasionally mooed as they found themselves the center of attention Thursday.

The beef cattle are part of a new project for Hagerstown High School students and the Nettle Creek School Corporation.

Students will learn about agriculture and business while raising the steers, and then the cattle will be butchered to provide beef for meals in the high school cafeteria, saving the corporation $2,000 to $3,000 in food costs.

On Thursday, school officials, students and project sponsors celebrated the arrival of the cattle with a gathering at the pasture on the northwest corner of Pike and Lacy roads near Hagerstown High School.

Students such as seniors Austin Roach, 18, and Eli Reagan, 18, began building fences for the pasture last fall. Since the cattle arrived this spring, students have been taking turns feeding them.

"It's really opened my eyes," Reagan told the Palladium-Item. "I like doing it."

Reagan said it's his first time to work with cattle. He's now considering an agriculture career when he completes his post-graduation stint in the Army.

Living on a farm and raising animals already is part of Roach's life, but he is finding the project beneficial as he plans for an agriculture-related career.

Both agreed that working with the cattle is a nice alternative to sitting in the classroom.

Julie McDonnell and Amy Reed of Farm Credit Mid-America in Hagerstown are enthusiastic about the project and were eager Thursday to have their photograph taken with some of the cattle. Their company sponsored one of the steers, which they have named BioStar.

"We just want to always support the community and youth," McConnell said. "Both of them are important to us."

Agriculture teacher Nathan Williamson said the harsh winter delayed the project somewhat, but everything is now back on track.

The initial plan called for the students to raise 10 cows, but because beef prices have gone up, they have purchased only seven, Williamson said. Six are Angus Cross and one is a purebred Hereford.

The seven will work well for the project and should be ready for butchering in October or November. Soon after, students should see fresh beef in the cafeteria meals.

"It's better than the food we have now," Roach said.

Williamson hopes the project will impact and interest students and their families. He said a lot of area residents have a few acres of property and they mow it all summer long. A good alternative would be to fence off a portion of the yard to raise a few beef cattle, he said.

"It would be well worth it," Williamson said.