Rick Deaton is excited about his work in the pork production field. But he’s hoping to get students interested in farming in any capacity when he visits Jay County next week.
Deaton, a sales and technical services representative for Birchwood Genetics, Inc., will speak to about 175 Jay County High School students in four sessions Wednesday, focusing on modern advances in agriculture.
“My passion is just to get the word out, and students is a great place to get started,” said Deaton. “We want to answer questions that anybody has. We love to share what we do. We’re excited. We have a passion for raising food.”
It’s important for teenagers to be acquainted with different areas of the farming industry, said JCHS agriculture teacher Cody Linville, especially because animals are being raised less on family farms and more in larger operations than they were 20 years ago.
“Any time that we can have some form of the agriculture industry come in and promote ag ... it’s a positive,” Linville said.
Deaton’s talk with the students in agriculture and veterinary science classes at JCHS will focus on advances in modern technology that have allowed farming to become more efficient. He noted that with the use of modern facilities, farmers are able to raise more animals while using fewer resources.
Among the advancements are the use of heating and cooling systems in barns rather than having animals outdoors. Having mechanically-regulated temperatures, Deaton said, allows energy from food to go toward growth rather than being expended to regulate body temperature.
“In today’s facilities they’re in an environment where it’s just like us living in heated homes and air conditioned homes,” Deaton said. “We don’t expend as much energy to keep ourselves warm or cool.”
The area of expertise for Deaton, who has been in the industry for 30 years and also serves on the board of the Ohio Pork Producers Council, is genetics and breeding.
He notes that 20 years ago a boar may have sired 600 to 700 pigs in a lifetime. Now through artificial insemination that same boar can influence 10 times that many.
Deaton emphasizes that the goal is not to genetically alter the animals, but rather to select the animals with the best genes and perpetuate them.
“I like to eat, and I’m assuming everyone else likes to eat,” he said. “I’m proud to be involved in an industry that produces a great food product.”
Beyond his work in pork production, Deaton said he wants to get the word out about technology in farming. While some of the work is still done in the barns, he said, there are also a lot of jobs behind the scenes that “go into helping us do our job correctly.”
“I hope we get some kids interested in being involved in agriculture,” Deaton added. “It’s an exciting field, but it’s a lot more than just the John Deere out in the field. … There’s a lot of technology that’s just exploded in the last 10 years.”