Agriculture students at Mt. Zion High School kicked off the year in an udderly unique way.

A small herd of beef cattle was introduced this year at the high school, giving students a hands-on learning experience that they can’t receive in any classroom.

Students both in-class and in an after-school program are able to care for the cattle. With Carroll County as one of the leading sources of beef cattle production in the state, they are able to learn a trade that they could enter as adults.

“It’s fun; we’re hands-on, we’re not in class having to do something on a computer; it’s a great experience,” said Nick Collins, senior.

These cows aren’t for milking — they are being raised for their meat. After caring for them for several months, the students will send the cows off to a meat processor. The students won’t be present for that part of the process, however.

Out of the four cows, two will be harvested in October, and two in November. Afterward, the meat will be sold by the students to help fundraise for more cattle to be purchased, according to Nikki Webb, the agriculture teacher at the high school.

“Carroll County is ranked in the top 10 in beef cattle production in the state of Georgia, so this provides them with what we do in Carroll County,” said Webb. “Your average farmer raises [cattle] to slaughter them, to put food on the table or to put money in their pockets, so this is teaching students the practical things that farmers do.”

Students are sent down on rotation daily to feed the cattle, and at least twice a week they go down to check and maintain the fencing.

Officials are also in the process of applying for grants to fund building for a barn to house the cows. Webb said that she hopes that eventually, the cows can be used for breeding, so that students can experience the entire process from calf, onwards.

Last December, fencing was donated and the students had the opportunity to learn how to install the fence and have the opportunity to do some of the work themselves, fencing in the several acres of land that is settled between the high school and elementary school.

“I think it is a blessing to be in a community where we can provide hands-on instruction for these kids, I think what these kids learn from real-life experiences ultimately is a good supplement to what they’re learning in the classroom,” said principal Landon Odom.