Two graduates of Oakland High School recently placed third in the nation in an FFA competition by researching the birthing issues of Boer goats.
Kaitlin Taylor and Mia Kuhnle competed in the National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis. It is the largest youth convention in the world, with more than 70,000 who attended, said the graduates’ former teacher, Rachel Ralston, agricultural education instructor at Oakland. The convention was held Oct. 30-Nov. 2.
Taylor and Kuhnle competed in the National Agriscience Fair competition, Ralston said. The two partnered on a research project titled, "Geriatric Dystocia: An intensive study examining the correlation between age and dystocia rates in goats." The students evaluated the correlation between the age of Boer goats and their likelihood to have trouble while kidding (birthing in goats).
They placed first in the state Agriscience Fair contest and competed against several other states in their division, Ralston said. They placed third in the nation.
Kuhnle and Taylor graduated from Oakland in May.
The Murfreesboro Post asked both students to share more about their research, Boer goats and some background on themselves.
Q: What is your major and your planned career?
Taylor: I am an agricultural communications and animal science double major at Oklahoma State University. My background in the livestock industry as well as my passion for writing and public speaking has led me to pursue a career in the marketing and publications field within agriculture. In addition, as I further my education in Stillwater, Oklahoma, I look to continue my research by taking advantage of undergraduate research programs.
Q: Tell me about your work with Boer goats, how long you have been around them, your favorite thing about them.
Taylor: I have grown up on a 30 head Boer goat operation alongside my family for the past 10 years. In fourth grade, I joined my county’s 4H Goat Club where I started with only three bottle kids that I showed at local county fairs. In a matter of time, we had grown our herd where my sister and I showed goats that we raised at both local and state shows. As I entered high school, I took advantage of research opportunities and conducted various research and FFA Agriscience Fair projects. Working within the meat goat industry has enabled me to network and correspond with producers nationwide as well as find my niche within the livestock and stock show industry.
Q: What led to this particular study topic?
Taylor: Dystocia, also referred to as “difficult birth,” is often the number one cause of kid loss in goat operations and can result in severe profitability loss for producers. Understanding this perpetual problem at hand, we began researching and collaborating with local producers and reproductive specialists in order to uncover underlying causes and correlations of dystocia in goats. By conducting interviews and completing online research on previously conducted studies, a common suggestion of concern was continuously repeated by a number of specialists: age. Specifically, it has been recently hypothesized that older age is linked to increased dystocia rates in goats as age does have an increased risk for birthing complications and postpartum issues. With this in mind, we decided to put it to the test and see if there was a true correlation between age and dystocia rates within the caprine species.
Q: Please summarize, in layman’s terms, what your research found.
Taylor: At the completion of our experiment, our hypothesis was proven. Age had a positive correlation in dystocia rates in the members of the Caprine species. In fact, Group A, does aged 1-5, only 7.7 percent of does encountered dystocia and required assistance. Compared to Group B, does aged 6-10, 63.6 percent encountered dystocia. Using the empirical method, we were able to successfully conclude that older age does had higher susceptibility to kidding issues within this specific trial.
Q: Tell me something about yourself (hobby or so forth).
Taylor: Aside from being actively involved within livestock production and research, I have a unique passion for livestock judging. In eighth grade, I judged my first practice contest and in the fall of my freshman year, my coach encouraged me to compete in my first state contest. Despite the long hours at practices and giving countless sets of reasons, I look back incredibly grateful for the experiences I have gained throughout the process. Thanks to the coaches that have invested in me and the teams that I have had competed alongside, I have competed in four national level contests and look to continue my livestock judging career on the collegiate level.
Q: What is your major and planned career?
Kuhnle: I am an Animal Science major at Middle Tennessee State University, and I am minoring in both secondary education and English. Upon graduation, I plan to become an agriculture educator as I am very enthusiastic about agricultural literacy. I hope to encourage my students to utilize each part of their educational experiences in school in their unique pursuits of their career goals. By completing my minor in the liberal arts and in MTSU’s unique Secondary Ed. program, I will be more equipped to support this kind of learning.
Q: Tell me something about your work with Boer goats.
Kuhnle: Although Kaitlin has had years of experience with Boer goats, I come from a different background. When deciding to begin this project with Kaitlin, I was excited to implement the skills I have gained through my experience in veterinary science. After competing in veterinary science FFA Career Development Events, completing a local veterinary assistant internship, and working at a local animal hospital, I looked forward to learning more about this breed of goats and how one approaches proper medical care for them. This was an amazing learning experience for me in this sense and even allowed me to gain more knowledge of Boer goats from a producer’s view.
Q: Tell me something about yourself.
Kuhnle: Although I have always been passionate about animals, I did not grow up very involved in agriculture. Upon entering my Oakland High School FFA chapter and agriculture career path, my eyes were opened to a whole industry. I am also very passionate about writing creatively and in professional manners. I hope to use this passion to involve more students in the Passing Literacy OnWard program to improve agricultural literacy in my community and beyond.