University of Georgia Cooperative Extension hosted the Southern Women in Ag (SWAG) Advanced Cattle Workshop this week designed for women and taught by female agricultural leaders in Georgia.
Hands-on trainings during the two-day workshop held in Tifton, Georgia was led by UGA Extension Agricultural and Natural Resources agents Stephanie Butcher (Coweta County), Tammy Cheely (Glascock County, Hancock County, Warren County), Carole Knight (Bulloch County), Lucy Ray (Morgan County), and Pam Sapp (Jefferson County); along with Katie Hammond, superintendent at UGA’s Northwest Research and Education Center in Calhoun, Georgia; and Jennifer Tucker, assistant professor in the UGA Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences.
The sessions provide tools and lessons to assist women on their farms and to help them step out of their comfort zones.
“The agriculture industry is a male-dominated industry. Sometimes that can be very intimidating to females coming in, or they may not feel comfortable asking questions in mixed company,” Knight said. “This workshop provides them with a comfortable place to experience things that maybe they haven’t had a chance to.”
Held at the Animal and Dairy Science Farm and Blackshank Farm on the UGA Tifton campus, lessons included how to handle and move cattle through a working facility. Participants learned also about the bovine reproductive system with the help of a calving simulator.
The UGA Extension agents taught the attendees how to use basic farm tools, such as how to drive a tractor, hook up to a trailer and operate various pieces of farm machinery.
“Some of these lessons can be used beyond just a cattle operation. Knowing how to change oil and check pressure in tires, those are types of things that go a long way in all areas of agriculture,” Sapp said. “It’s important to remember that some of this stuff just comes as second nature for men. Their fathers taught them how to do this and they can just do it. That’s not necessarily the case for women in our industry. Just having an environment where there’s no pressure helps.”
Knight and Tucker hosted a forages and fencing session that introduced participants to soil sampling, hay sampling, types of fencing and how to interpret soil and forage analysis. A pasture walk took place at the Blackshank grazing paddocks and highlighted the fencing infrastructure currently under construction as part of the Better Grazing Program Southern Location. Partial funding for the fencing demonstration area was provided through the Georgia Commodity Commission for Beef.
“Even if they are scared to step out of their comfort zone, we will push them out of their comfort zone,” Knight said. “We have a lot who come through who say they don’t want to do something, but we’re like, ‘No, but you’re going to. That’s why you came, to learn.’ We make everybody take a turn doing the hands-on activities. Really, I think they appreciate that, to be pushed to do things they wouldn’t have before.”
Media training is an important component of these workshops. Butcher, who is a member of the Dairy Alliance Scientific Advisory Board, has experience conveying her story to the general public. She wants to help other agricultural professionals develop that same confidence when they’re talking to a newspaper reporter or giving an interview in front of a camera.
“I enjoy teaching others about agriculture, especially those who are not from an agricultural background. I felt strongly that we needed to include something in our SWAG program to cover this, because many times producers are comfortable working with livestock, but they’re not nearly as comfortable talking with people about what they do,” Butcher said. “The purpose of the media training is to give these women tools they need to be able to discuss what they do with people who are two or three generations removed from agriculture.”
When Butcher isn’t teaching agriculture programs, she is a farm wife and mother on her family’s dairy farm where they care for 330 Holsteins and Jerseys. On weekends and during harvest season, she can be found feeding calves or helping with the local 4-H dairy heifer show team.
Funding for the program is provided by the Georgia Commodity Commission for Beef.