Recently, 35 elite Texas 4-H livestock, equine and poultry ambassadors in Texas 4-H Youth Livestock and Agriculture, TYLA, traveled to Australia to explore agriculture on a more global scale.
TYLA is a program of the Texas 4-H Youth Development Unit, part of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. It is a source of information for 4-H families involved in youth livestock projects and agricultural advocacy, with a goal to ensure the successful development of young people involved in agriculture.
The Texas 4-H Livestock Ambassador Program provides training combined with hands-on experience to selected youth, thus equipping them with the skills and knowledge to serve as educators of their community, youth volunteers and stewards of the livestock industry.
Culminating their ambassador experience, the team had the opportunity to apply for the Australia Agricultural Experience. The third- and fourth-year Texas 4-H ambassadors were required to complete their respective short course and the Texas 4-H Advocacy Academy.
The Livestock Ambassador program is rigorous, as it requires students to devote a large amount of time to serving their 4-H communities and advocating for agriculture through outreach and education.
An Australian agricultural experience
The trip started with a tour of the Sydney Opera House, a harbor lunch cruise and sightseeing before moving inland to make the agriculture connection.
The group visited with Meat and Livestock Australia, Veejay Downs-Mandalong Specials, Texas Star Performance Horses and Yalgoo Genetics. These stops provided insights into large-scale beef, equine and sheep industries in Australia.
Next, the ambassadors spent four days in and around Armidale where they had a front-row seat to Australian university life. They visited the Agricultural Business Research Institute, University of New England’s SMART Farm Innovation Centre, and the university’s Tullimba Feedlot, allowing them to tour facilities and learn more about the in-depth agricultural research being done there.
The remainder of the group’s time in Armidale was spent at GrazAg, the Dutton Trout Hatchery, which provided additional agricultural experiences.
From there, ambassadors traveled to Stanthorpe to watch a polo match and get a unique perspective on large-scale irrigation farming at the Coulton Farm. There they learned more about growing wheat, barley, chickpeas, cotton and sorghum.
“I enjoyed visiting the Coulton Farm and seeing how different and similar Australian farming is. This was one of my favorite stops on the trip to learn and soak in knowledge to apply to my own farm in Texas,” said Texas 4-H livestock ambassador Miranda Skaggs, Brazos County.
While still in Stanthorpe, they visited a local saddlery business, where they learned about leather stamping.
“I felt a warm and welcoming atmosphere at Kent Saddlery. I’ve always been interested in saddle-making, so I enjoyed touring the facility and learning more about its rich heritage. I even bought a few souvenirs for my entire family from the store, which made the experience even better,” said Texas 4-H livestock ambassador Amy Kaye Mathis, Kleberg County.
After learning about the equine industry, they shifted gears to the beef industry, visiting Harrow Station, Gatton Research Station and Kerwee Beef, where they learned about the Wagyu beef industry abroad and heard from some of the top stockmen in the world.
“The ambassadors also spent half a day at the Dalby Regional Saleyards, where they observed Australian values, selling methods and marketing, and were introduced to the International Livestock Identification System,” said Billy Zanolini, Ph.D., Texas 4-H youth development specialist and associate professor, Bryan-College Station.
Lasting memories about Australian people, animals and agriculture
Rounding out their experience in Australia, the students connected with the Bunya People’s Aboriginal Corporation at the top of the Bunya Mountains to participate in a ritual that connects people to the land.
The ambassadors also stopped at the world-renowned Australia Zoo near Brisbane to learn about animal husbandry and welfare.
“This exercise and understanding will help the Texas youth become better advocates for their own livestock back home,” Zanolini said.
“I will forever be grateful for TYLA and everything they do for youth in agriculture. I’m so glad I could end my 4-H career in Australia with 35 people that I now consider my family. I can’t wait to apply what I’ve learned and continue to expand my agricultural knowledge at the greatest university,” said former Texas 4-H livestock ambassador McKenzie Evans, Burnet County.
“Texas 4-H Youth Livestock and Agriculture would like to thank all of the sponsors, staff, volunteers, county AgriLife Extension agents, parents and the team at Quadrant Australia for making this trip possible for these exceptional students,” Zanolini said.
For more information about Texas 4-H Youth Livestock and Agriculture, visit https://texasyouthlivestock.com/.