Three young ladies are putting a small southwestern North Dakota town on the map. At least to FFA members, the town of Scranton, North Dakota, should now be familiar. Thirty four students in the FFA chapter is nothing to sneeze at, with a junior and high school claiming only about 56 students total, in a town of about 270 people.
By Carrie Stadheim
For The Pioneer
Juniors Abbi Steeke and Ebony Musonda, along with eighth grader Madison Wilson qualified to compete in the national FFA convention in Indianapolis last week.
Steeke, said she beat out about 7 or 8 other North Dakotans in the AgriScience Division at the state competition. Then she submitted an application to be judged for national level competition. Out of more than thirty applicants, only 12 were chosen to compete in Indianapolis.
Although she didn’t land in the top three in her category, Steeke earned a silver rating out of a possible bronze, silver or gold.
Students competing in AgriScience conduct experiments and present the findings, similar to a science fair project, but with an agricultural focus, said Steeke.
She conducted research to determine whether sheep respond as well to two and a half ccs of progesterone as they do to five ccs. Steeke said veterinarians recommend five ccs when synchronizing sheep, but she wanted to find out if producers could save money by using half the recommended dosage.
Her results showed that indeed, less is more.
For the study she divided the sheep into three groups of 22 head each.
• Group one was given five ccs, resulting in a 41 percent bred rate in the first cycle.
• Group two was given two and a half ccs, and 55 percent were bred.
• Group three did not get progesterone or any other hormones and 77 percent of them were bred.
“The thing with that – the ones that got the hormones lambed out a lot faster. They were done in a week and a half and the control group lambed over three and a half weeks. It depends whether you have a big enough barn for them all to lamb at once or if you want them a little more spread out,” she pointed out.
All of the sheep were bred naturally but the same concept could be used for artificially inseminating.
Steeke said she learned that progesterone costs around $9 per 5 ccs so with a large group of ewes, cutting the dosage in half could result in significant savings.
Many producers are already using the smaller dosage, Steeke believes, at least the ones she’s talked to. “Probably more people are moving to the two and a half ccs. The larger dose over ovulates the eggs,” she said. Steeke presented her results on a poster board, and at the state competition showed some visual aids including a syringe and bottle of progesterone.
Wilson also competed in the AgriScience Division but since she is in eighth grade, she competed against seventh and eighth graders.
She turned to a favorite hobby – hunting – for inspiration for her project. “My dad and I bowhunt. I did a project on compound bows,” she said. Using two different kinds of arrows – one with a carbon spear and one with an aluminum spear, she measured penetration from different distances.
Using an old deer hide in her experiment, she determined that the aluminum spears penetrated the hide further at 20 and 40 yards, but the carbon won at 30 yards.
“I thought it might be because – it was very cold when I shot them – I thought maybe it was just the different temperatures were affecting the hide, or maybe the hide was more hard and dry in some spots. I think with a different hide, the aluminum would have had better penetration at 30 yards. It doesn’t make sense that carbon would have more penetration at 30 yards.”
Wilson didn’t shoot her bow in her presentation but explained her project using photos and props including a piece of deer hide
Wilson enjoyed competing. “It wasn’t hard because I’ve done it so many times for science – regionals and state.”
Musonda was chosen for the second time to sing in the FFA national choir. About 80 students are chosen to sing from across the country. Ebony submitted her demo online which included a video of her singing the first verse of America the Beautiful, then a two octave scale saying her name and the year.
Last year Musonda was the only North Dakotan in the choir and she was chosen for a solo.
She recalled last year’s choir, saying it was an amazing experience. “We sang a mashup with California girls and then other songs about other states.”
The students traveled to Indiana with their chapter advisor and Abbi’s mom, Misty Steeke.