It is time to complete applications for the 2016-2017 Pasture to Packer Program.

So you ask, what is the Erath Pasture to Packer Program? The program, offered through Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Erath County and Erath 4-H, is designed to teach youth the economic and production facets of an agricultural project, while also teaching them valuable leadership skills.  Each participant will submit an application by August 25th and complete a face to face interview on September 3rd. After acceptance to the program, the participants begin working with one of the sponsors, Lone Star Ag Credit, to request their loan for their animal cost and feed.  During the loan application process and interview, they learn the proper way to fill out a loan application, work thru a projected cash flow, and understand the record book requirements.

On October 1st, participants will select steers from a pre-sorted group of commercial calves weighing between   700 – 750 pounds. After selection, they learn about chute-side manner, vaccination protocols, animal health and diseases, and participate in processing their calf before taking it home to begin the feeding process. 

The participants will have their calves on feed for 150 - 170 days.  During this process, the youth will have to keep records on feed performance and cost associated with the project.  Each participant will have a check-in and weigh-in on the project at various times throughout the feeding period.  The cattle are cared for and records are kept, just as a commercial producer would do.  During the feeding period, the group will participate in several educational seminars focusing on marketing, nutrition, animal husbandry and meat science.

We have partnered with Tarleton meat department to harvest the cattle in March 2016.  The youth will bring their animals together for a live evaluation at the conclusion of the feeding program. After the cattle are harvested, the participants will learn about carcass quality, grading and cuts of meat. They will then be responsible for marketing their carcass. This program gives the participants full responsibility from the purchasing decision to the marketing.  The proceeds of the carcass sales will be used to pay back the loan.

In April, there will be an awards banquet where the youth, sponsors, and volunteers are recognized. In addition, special awards will be presented, as well as the results of the feeding program. This program is not designed to profit the child a great deal in a monetary sense.  It is designed to give them a very valuable hands-on, learning experience---from interviews and bank visits, to daily care of their cattle, combined with the marketing side and industry knowledge of where and how our food is processed.

Lonnie Jenschke is an Erath County extension agent.

If you have any questions, please contact the Erath County Extension Office at 254-965-1460.