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4-H members in Stutsman County, N.D., had the option of getting Youth Quality Care Assurance certified during a showmanship clinic in June. (Photo courtesy of Stutsman County 4-H)

4-H shows at North Dakota State Fair now require YQCA certification

MINOT, N.D. — All 4-H youth showing livestock at the North Dakota State Fair this year have been specially trained in animal well-being, food safety and life skills.

For the first time, exhibitors at the fair, which began last week, are required to have completed Youth Quality Care Assurance in order to participate. For 2018, certifications from Pork Quality Assurance and Beef Quality Assurance also are accepted. Next year, only YQCA certifications will cover the requirement.

Leigh Ann Skrupey is a 4-H youth development specialist in the Center for 4-H Youth Development in North Dakota. She coordinates state 4-H youth development educational programs and events related to animal and equine science. The push for a quality assurance program for 4-H is no different than a push for quality care in other aspects of agriculture, she explains: It's consumer driven and teaches important lessons for being a responsible animal owner.

"As a 4-Her, you're producing an animal to go into the food stream," she says.

Likewise, South Dakota 4-H also has begun to implement YQCA certification requirements. Heidi Carroll, South Dakota State University Extension associate in livestock stewardship, says all swine project participants in the state — competing at the county or state level — this year are required to obtain YQCA certification. Next year, all participants in market livestock projects will have to be certified.

Since many 4-H livestock exhibitors may join the industry, getting started on important things like injections sites, reading feed tags and communicating about agriculture to the public just makes sense, Skrupey says. Pork producers have long been expected to participate in Pork Quality Assurance, and beginning Jan. 1, 2019, beef producers who sell to Tyson will have to participant in Beef Quality Assurance, she says.

"It helps teach skills our adult producers are using every day," Carroll agrees.

Skrupey says she experienced a little push back when she moved forward with implementing YQCA. However, once people understood what the training teaches, most people came around. She hasn't seen numbers of entries at the State Fair yet to see if there was any decrease due to the requirement.

Carroll says the only complaints she has heard about the program have been regarding "technical logistics," such as when workshops were offered and getting certificates uploaded properly.

"We didn't really get any pushback from families saying they didn't appreciate the opportunity," she says.

But no matter what anyone thinks of the requirement, it seems likely to stay. In addition to the North Dakota State Fair, 19 North Dakota counties also now require YQCA certification for county-level participation. While it's not required statewide in North Dakota, Skrupey imagines that will come in the future.

North Dakota this year offered two options to become YQCA certified: taking a one-hour web course or taking a three-hour in-person course. The web course, which costs $12, is "super fun," Skrupey says. It separates the lessons into three modules: animal well-being, food safety and life skills. Life skills, she says, include how to speak to people who are not ag educated. That's important because of how many people come in contact with the livestock industry through livestock shows and fairs.

"Our 4-Hers become the face of the industry, especially at the fair," she says.

The in-person course covers the same material and only costs $3. However, Skrupey says members can't access materials later if they take the in-person course.

Stutsman County, N.D., did not require YQCA certification for participation at the county fair, says Robin Barnes, 4-H program coordinator for the county. However, the county did offer the training so that members who planned to also show at the state fair could be prepared. A number of people took the training online, and Barnes estimates about 14 got certified at the county's showmanship clinic earlier this summer.

Barnes says whether the certification will become required by the county will be up to the county livestock committee.

In South Dakota, training only was offered in-person for 2018, Carroll says. All county advisors received YQCA training, so they were able to put on training themselves or work with other counties to offer it.

South Dakota may consider offering the online training next year as the number of members required to participate will increase substantially, Carroll says.

Skrupey says certification for competition at the state level in North Dakota will be an annual requirement, as the course will change every year.

Getting YQCA certified has another benefit for North Dakota 4-H members. Many questions asked in the newly developed Livestock Quiz Bowl come straight off the YQCA training, Skrupey says. That event gives animal loving kids another avenue for participation, since livestock judging isn't up everyone's alley.