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Next generation of livestock leaders gain hands-on skills at youth conference

DECATUR, Ill.— The next generation of livestock leaders gained hands-on experience in the livestock field at this year’s Illinois 4-H Junior Livestock Conference held Jan. 21-22 at the Decatur Hotel & Conference Center. 

Attendees included 100 youth from 50 counties across Illinois, with youth members of the 4-H Livestock Ambassador Team helping to plan and execute this learning experience aimed at 7th, 8th, and 9th graders.

“It was exciting to come together with the rest of team to combine our experiences to create an expansive conference that combines what we know to share with the kids,” says livestock ambassador Travis Wilke of Richland County. “Being at the conference and seeing the attendees getting exposure to species or livestock production areas they’re not familiar with is really exciting.”

Teen leaders were excited to share their knowledge and skills with the youth that will follow in their footsteps as they shape their own paths in the livestock industry.

“It’s fun to watch the next generation pick up and enjoy the livestock area,” says livestock ambassador Makenna Green of Douglas County. “I had a lot of people do that for me when I was younger and it’s fun to give back. We’re developing skills as teachers at the same time they’re developing hands-on skills.”

Attendees participated in Glove-Up Sessions throughout the conference which allowed them to work hands-on in a variety of skills, such as giving injections, wound suturing, product quality, marketing, and more.

The event focused on education, but also created great opportunities to build camaraderie and a sense of teamwork around a shared passion for the livestock industry. “The skills and lessons that you learn raising livestock as a youth is something I’m passionate about sharing,” says Travis.

This year’s conference theme was Livestock in Paradise.

Illinois 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension and administered through the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. The Illinois Farm Bureau and Illinois Pork Producers provided financial support for this event through the Illinois 4-H Foundation.

About Illinois 4-H: 4-H grows true leaders, youth who are empowered for life today and prepared for a career tomorrow. The hands-on approach in 4-H gives young people guidance, tools and encouragement, and then puts them in the driver’s seat to make great things happen. Independent research confirms the unparalleled impact of the 4-H experience, demonstrating that young people are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs. 

About Extension:  Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. 

For Further Information Contact:

Source: Dan Jennings, 4-H Animal Systems Youth Development Educator University of Illinois Extension,

News Writer: Carissa Nelson, 4-H Media Communications Manager, University of Illinois Extension,