You're never too old to learn something new. Or too young, for that matter.
That's the premise behind WIRED, or Women in Ranching Education and Development. The American National CattleWomen (ANCW), which conducts the events, has offered WIRED educational events over the past four years. For 2023, ANCW conducted three events, which typically are a day-and-a-half long.
"It's really important for ranching women to have a place where they can ask questions, to learn, without outside noise," said Jill Ginn, past ANCW president and WIRED co-chair.
Ginn, from Godley, Texas, works as director of genetic sales and producer relations with 44 Farms. She says WIRED events provide women an opportunity to ask questions and learn in an environment that is best for them. "It empowers women, in my mind, to learn the skills they need to take back to the ranch and to become successful."
More and more women are making business and production decisions for cattle operations, and at the same time, skilled labor shortages have increased the need to share know-how in animal science and management.
"We're not just bookkeepers anymore," said Dr. Jennie Hodgen, a cow-calf producer and senior account manager in consumer affairs with Merck Animal Health, one of the event sponsors. "We're needed to be part of the everyday activities." Hodgen led WIRED's hands-on demonstrations on implanting techniques while a colleague did education for DNA collection and applying ear tags.
"Lots of cattlewomen are playing a role in data collection, genetics and herd improvement," said Ginn. "So, we did hands-on training with Allflex Tissue Sampling Units for DNA testing. This helps them make breeding decisions to select for traits that are desired in today's cattle markets. We also learned how to apply electronic ID tags, which are often required in value-added beef programs."
Hodgen added that the WIRED venue gives participants a comfortable place to ask basic questions. "You can ask any question in a very safe environment and get the hands-on experience to actually do it and make sure you're doing it properly through good BQA (Beef Quality Assurance) techniques. I think that gives you more confidence to go and do it properly on your own ranch, which moves the industry forward."
That's how Kate Asmus sees it. "The main reason I came to this event is to improve my family's ranching operation, specifically with our animal handling," said Asmus, who's working on her master's degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "We can always continue to improve animal welfare and health. I'm always interested in learning more and learning how I can better improve myself."
The WIRED event she attended this March in Grand Island, Nebraska, gave her that opportunity. The event, which drew nearly 70 participants, combined hands-on learning along with classroom-type education. It was clear to see which of those the women found the most engaging.
During the event, the women rotated between three demonstration areas where they learned how to properly implant, apply tags, and mix vaccines. Then they went chute-side to learn about animal handling and chute-side techniques.
There was lecture time as well, where they learned more about animal health, animal handling, and the BQA program.
A special treat at the Grand Island WIRED event was keynote speaker, Dr. Temple Grandin, world-renowned animal behaviorist. At the end of the event, the women put their learning to use, taking a test to become BQA certified.
WIRED events are open to all women, regardless of age or experience. Over the four years that WIRED events have been conducted, attendees have ranged in age from 8 to 76 years old.
While WIRED events are unique in that they're one of the very few places for hands-on learning, the networking opportunities are clear.
"It gives them an opportunity to share experiences and ideas with other producers," said Tammi Didlot, a Moore, Oklahoma, cow-calf producer, past ANCW president, and WIRED co-chair.
Ginn agrees. "They learn a lot at these WIRED events, and they also now know people they can call when they get back home. Developing that network really is one of the greatest things that people like about this event."
For more information about attending WIRED event, visit https://ancw.org/….
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