Agriculture, a once male dominated industry, is transitioning to an equal mix of male and female leaders within the industry. This is evident in the recent accomplishment for the “Coffee Girls” as they received the honor of being crowned Reserve Champions in the State Top Hand Stockmanship & Stewardship Contest held in Washington, GA at Barnett Angus Ranch. This accomplishment came after they were named Grand Champions at the Regional Contest at the UGA Alapaha Beef Unit earlier in October. The Challenge was powered by the UGA Beef Team and Georgia Cattlemen's Association with the goal of exposing students to the career and opportunities within the cattle industry. The “Coffee Girls” consisted of Madeline Tuten, Mikayla Hayes, and Grace Barrett who represented Coffee County FFA.
Through the Top Hand Challenge students had to first become Beef Quality Assurance Certified by completing online course modules that went over common and approved management and handling practices. At the state contest students had to: 1) create a processing map that would provide a producer to know what products and management practices was done to his herd, 2) demonstrate Beef Quality Assurance skills by handling cattle in a low stress environment and “catch” livestock utilizing a squeeze chute, 3) mix and administer Modified Live Virus (MLV) and killed vaccines in an approved manner, 4) pull a TSU sample for genetic testing purposes, 5) apply numbered tags and Electronic Identification Device (EID) within the ear for record keeping purposes and record the data with an online animal management platform, and 6) apply topical and oral antiparasitic to control intestinal worms and flies.
The challenge not only tested students' brains but also their brawn and certainly challenged students to get out of their comfort zone, try and experience new things to gain exposure to the cattle industry. Hayes stated, “This challenge was one of my favorite that I’ve been a part of in my high school career. It provides real life experience to develop communication and decision making skills between you and your teammates, and develops a healthy respect and handling practices for an animal that is five to ten times your size.”
The team was trained by Coffee County Young Farmer Advisor Spencer Highsmith. Highsmith and the team would like to send out a special thanks to cattle producers, Harry Smith and Troy Highsmith, that allowed students to gain experience working with cattle on their operations. This achievement would not have been possible without producers, like these, wanting to inspire youth to get involved in the agriculture industry, specifically the cattle industry.