11/23/13 — Livestock positions will be filled

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Livestock positions will be filled

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 23, 2013 10:53 PM

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Junior livestock program assistant Summer Young inspects Big Bird on a visit to the Wheaton family farm in Dudley on Friday.

Wayne County commissioners and local agricultural leaders are hopeful that filling two vacant livestock positions in the Cooperative Extension Service Office will ensure that the county will be able to provide the level of service needed to match its status as one of the top livestock-producing counties in the state.

The first step was taken Tuesday when commissioners agreed to reclassify the job of 4-H program assistant Summer Young to include youth livestock. There is no cost increase associated with the reclassification, the board said.

Also, the Cooperative Extension Office has been cleared to begin advertising to fill its livestock agent position, which has been vacant since May when Eileen Coite left to become the Sampson County Extension Service director.

The office could be filled by the first of February.

Ms. Coite had "somewhat filled" the role of overseeing youth livestock programs, Extension Director Kevin Johnson said.

Mrs. Young grew up in the Grantham community and was an active member of 4-H for 13 years.

She was an active 4-H'er in the Livestock Program showing hogs, dairy heifers and lambs. She earned her associate's degree in business from Wayne Community College in 2002 and has been working with Wayne County 4-H for 14 years.

Mrs. Young will continue to work as the 4-H program assistant, in which part of her job is to work with clubs in the community with youths ages five to 19, and adult volunteers.

Along with her current 4-H club responsibilities, she also now will be doing 4-H youth livestock and 4-H school enrichment beginning Dec. 1.

Mrs. Young has been with the county Extension Office since 1999, working predominately with grant programs including Operation Military Kids.

"She is just going to thrive in the environment we are going to move her into," Johnson said. "She is one of the 4-H employees and has a passion for children. She will be doing more with traditional 4-H programs. A big part of that will be youth livestock work. That will include livestock judging, working with the livestock shows, clinics, and education programs such as school enrichment projects like embryology. Adding Summer really enhances the livestock program.

"The youth livestock component is a very important part of our livestock program, our educational process. There is a huge demand, We have our Livestock Show and Sale that is in April. We have livestock judging teams. We are not just talking about hogs, we are talking about hogs, lambs, goats, beef cattle. There are all kinds of livestock. But it is a big part of our community. In the last year, we have had nobody giving them guidance in this."

Johnson said he hopes having a person in charge of youth livestock and the enrichment program will revive some of the school enrichment programs like embryology that have kind of fallen by the wayside.

But while Mrs. Young will be involved in livestock, the county still needs someone to handle the day-to-day livestock management programs, Johnson said.

Wayne County Manger Lee Smith told commissioners during their meting last week that he and Commissioner Bill Pate had discussed the livestock agent position. Pate is chairman of the Wayne County Agricultural Center Advisory Board.

"We are in the top five livestock counties in the country," Smith said.

However, a low interest has been placed on livestock in the county and it needs to be higher, he said.

"The farmers, farm families and agribusinesses are calling like crazy over the last 60 days because they see us sliding backwards on it," Smith said. "They make a good point."

Commissioner Ed Cromartie asked if there had been any move to advertise to the livestock agent position.

There has not because the state had put the position on hold, Smith said.

However, he said that as soon as the state saw that the county was willing to participate that it freed up dollars in order to open the position up.

The Farm Bureau has helped by talking to Extension and N.C. State University officials, he said. A lot of people in the county have called the University and Extension officials as well, Smith said.

Pate said there had been "threats" of having to share an agent and local producers are against that because there would be gaps in service.

Smith said he has experience sharing an Extension agent across three counties.

"It didn't work because what we found, you thought it would be a third, and a third and a third," he said. "However, it would be 75, 10 and 15 (percent). Farmers and folks here in the ag business are screaming that they do not want that.

"That being the case, we talked to the University and they said, 'We will open it up.' They suggested that we could open it up today and advertise it."