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Local ag students take part in hands-on contest

Mondovi High School students, from left, Wes Price, Logan Deetz and Kyle Rosensteel examine a reproductive system of a cow contained in a clear plastic bag as part of an Ag Skills Competition at Chippewa Valley Technical College March 4.

Agriscience education is not always pretty. A group of Mondovi High School students taking a close-up look at a calf fetus born premature came away with an understanding of that, even if they couldn’t be sure of how to answer some questions posed to them about it.

Aarik Lawstuen, Travis Hollister and Weston Larson had seen drawings or maybe pictures of a calf fetus in their agriculture studies, but this display at the annual Ag Skills Competition at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in Eau Claire March 4 was at a whole new level. At this station, the students working in groups were asked to determine the development age of the fetus, the gender, and give some possible causes of the premature birth.

At the next table, Mondovi High School students Wes Price, Logan Deetz and Kyle Rosensteel tried to identify the parts of the reproductive system of a cow, which was spread out inside a clear plastic bag with key parts indicated by numbers.

“The Ag Skills Competition is held annually in conjunction with the Eau Claire Farm Show,” said Mark Denk, Agriscience Technician program director for CVTC. “We invite high schools from around the area to participate.”

The morning event at CVTC consisted of orientation, competitions, tours of the CVTC campus, and awards. Most school groups headed to the Farm Show for the afternoon.

“We also have a crops contest in which teams can bring in crop samples. We judge them based on quality,” Denk said.

Also taking part in the event was the CVTC Horticulture program. Students in that competition identified plants.

“It’s great for the kids to apply what they’re learning in class,” said Adam Wehling, agriculture teacher at Mondovi High School. “Some of these kids are pretty young, but they’ll come back here with more experience next time.”

“It’s an application of their knowledge,” said Adam Zwiefelhofer, Agriscience Technician instructor at CVTC. “In my contests, I try to make it as hands-on as possible.”

So the students had to take a close look at that fetus and try to determine whether it was one month, three months, six months, or more in development based on characteristics they could observe, which isn’t an easy task for students who may be seeing a real calf fetus for the first time.

“We took an educated guess that it was three months in the forming process, and it’s a female,” said Lawstuen.

So what went wrong?

“There are a bunch of variables that could have happened to it,” Lawstuen said. “The mother could have been stressed out from the weather or a change in feed.”

Over at the reproductive system table, the team of freshmen did its best. “It was kind of hard,” said Deetz. “And it stank a little bit.”

The competition was far from high pressure. The emphasis was more on applying knowledge and skills and getting some exposure to the next level of agriculture education.

“This is to bring high school students from the district into CVTC and into our programs,” Zwiefelhofer said. “These are essentially the future students in our programs.”

“I see value in the two-year schools and I want them to see the lifestyle at the CVTC campus,” said Wehling. “I already sold them on the value of an education.”

Among the students Wehling brought were some from an introduction to horticulture class in which the students are earning credits both at Mondovi High School and CVTC. The cooperative program is called “transcripted credit” and is offered in a number of different subjects at schools throughout the CVTC district.

“We call our class Plant, Greenhouse and Landscaping, but it’s an introduction to horticulture,” Wehling said.

Almost 100 students from Fall Creek, Stanley-Boyd, Neillsville, Elmwood, Thorp and Mondovi high schools took part. The feedback from the students and their teachers was excellent.

“The kids were really excited about it,” Zwiefelhofer said. “The ones who had been here before said how much better it was than in the past, and we heard that from the teachers too.”

Chippewa Valley Technical College delivers superior, progressive technical education which improves the lives of students, meets the workforce needs of the region, and strengthens the larger community. Campuses are located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls. CVTC serves an 11-county area in west central Wisconsin. CVTC is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and is one of 16 WTCS colleges located throughout the state.