Local FFA students receive hands-on training at Willow Bend

By Greenbrier East FFA officers for RealWV,

On February 1, students from Mrs. Dunkle’s morning classes at Greenbrier East traveled to the Willow Bend Agriculture Innovation Center for a fun filled day full of learning about sheep. Greenbrier West, James Monroe and Summers County were also in attendance for this event.

The day started off with students breaking off into four groups. Each group had a different activity station.

At the first station, students had the opportunity to learn ultrasound technology and read an ultrasound. Students were then given the opportunity to test out their skills and perform the ultrasound procedure themselves. Dr. Scott Bowdridge, a professor from WVU and Brad Smith from WVU Extension Service demonstrated the ultrasound procedure with an in depth explanation of what students were specifically looking at. Students were specifically looking to see if each ewe (adult female sheep) was bred and how many lambs were inside. Common things students saw on the ultrasound were the lamb’s head, spinal column and cotyledons on the uterus.

The second station for students was sheep shearing. Here students met with professional sheep shearers, John Nelson and Mark Jordan. Here students watched the detailed process of shearing sheep and learned the shearing pattern. Students then learned how to handle and set the sheep in the correct position. Student volunteers were also able to get hands on practice shearing the sheep. These volunteers were given a beginner set of shears and guided on the shearing pattern. Student were then able to feel the shorn wool and examine the lanolin content. Lanolin is the oil produced by sheep which makes wool highly resistant to fire and is an incredible moisturizer for skin.

At the third station, students were able to collect fresh fecal samples in order to collect a fecal egg count. Students, guided by Brian Wickline with the Monroe County Extension Service, were able to catch and handle each ewe in order to perform the fecal sampling.

The final station of the day was for student to examine the fresh fecal samples they had just collected. Here, Brian Wickline and Josh Peplowski with Greenbrier County Extension Service gave students a rundown of what they were looking for in the microscope. Students then filled containers with a fecal float solution and the fecal material. They used a pipet to take a small sample and insert the sample into a McMaster slide. The slide was then placed under a microscope where students could count each parasitic egg and determine whether the sheep flock needed dewormed or not.

Overall, students were given an incredible hands-on opportunity. We look forward to utilizing the Willow Bend farm more often. Greenbrier East FFA would like to thank the volunteers, extension agents and agriculture teachers. This opportunity would not be possible if it weren’t for them.

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