Award-winning project refines rural small animal care

By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

October was a busy month for local Dawson student Ty Williams.

After a four-person competition in the 94th National Future Farmers of America Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana, Williams took home first place within their Proficiency Award section’s solo contest, excelling within the small animal production and care event.

“When my name was announced, I won’t forget that moment,” Williams said. “I’ve been dreaming of that for a really long time and it’s something that I’ll never forget and will always keep with me in my heart.”

The win is a large one for his small town. Williams faced competition against thousands of high school and college students who compete within the National Convention, which took place Oct. 27 through Oct. 30.

Dawson student Ty Williams administers care to a Californian rabbit. – Courtesy photo

Williams focused on breeding Californian rabbits, a domestic breed used as either meat or household pets. The student bred 60 rabbits, keeping records on each animal regarding feeding and cost of feed, grooming and cleaning facilities. His project showcased how how farmers should take care of their small animals as well as quality ways farmers can have sustainable production year after year.

The student’s Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) project was a generational one. His initial interest in agriculture was initially inspired by his mother’s and uncle’s work, then later following in the footsteps of two cousins and his older brothers, who showed livestock. Williams joined the FFA during the third grade.

“The agricultural industry and agriculture in general runs deep in my roots,” Williams said. “I live on a cattle ranch with my family, so it was kind of an instinct.”

Ty Williams showcases a selection of his rabbits. – Courtesy photo

After entering high school, Williams was able to enter events, and competed during all four years of his education.

“I just decided to stay in it because every time I’m around an FFA member or an Ag teacher, it feels like you’re in a home away from home,” Williams said. “There’s never any negativity and everyone is always so welcoming, and are are just there if you need anything.”

The organization gave the student the opportunity to meet people from all across state and nation, and allowed the student to make the generational project he inherited his own.

“I couldn’t help but cry,” Williams said upon reflection of his award. “I just know about how many people helped me make it that far, and I just am really thankful for my Ag teachers, and the FFA, and just everyone that supported me along the way.”

Williams’ advances in small animal welfare has the potential to further agricultural education in the Dawson area, and he wants to use that opportunity to help others around his hometown.

“It’s really cool just to have a national championship under my belt,” Williams added. “I’m very thankful for that because it allowed me to advocate more for my breeding rabbit operation. It let other people not just in my county know, but other counties know that ‘Hey I have rabbits for y’all’ and I’m very welcome to provide this for anyone who needs help or needs advice on anything.”

Ty Williams works on his SAE project for FFA. – Courtesy photo

Williams graduated Dawson High School this year, and is currently attending Charleston State University in South Carolina, where he majors in agricultural services and development. Upon graduation, Williams plans to be an agricultural teacher, and help mentor the next generation of national champions in the area.

“Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone,” Williams said. “I know for me if I wasn’t pushed and hadn’t worked as hard as I did I wouldn’t be where I am today. I encourage every FFA member, whether in an SAE project or not, to step outside an do something that maybe you’re not so comfortable with, because you never know where it might lead.”

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