GUSTINE - Gustine High School junior Savanna Barcellos has been making the most of her FFA opportunities, from the show ring to speech competitions to conferences and more.
After being involved in 4-H for several years, Barcellos knew that FFA was in her future at Gustine and anticipated continuing to show the goats that have been her livestock species of choice.
But it was the FFA Creed competition in her freshman year that opened her eyes to all that the organization offers, and motivated Barcellos to expand her involvement.
“That was the event that really sparked my interest in getting more involved,” she said of the FFA Creed competition. “It was really cool, and it changed me personally. It changed my personality. I have been more confident, and I am more comfortable talking in front of others.”
Goats have remained a central interest for Barcellos.
She started showing goats at 9 years of age, and with the exception of showing a swine project one year in 4-H has stayed with the goats.
“I wanted to stick to a smaller species, and they just kind of spoke to me,” Barcellos related. “They all have different character. They are interesting.”
Barcellos, the daughter of Manuel and Alice Barcellos, said she looks for body shape, muscularity and bone structure when selecting a goat to raise out for the show ring.
From that point, she explained, nutrition and regular work with the animal are critical in preparing for the show ring.
“I like to start working with them at an early age, and start adding different types of feed and supplements,” Barcellos explained. “Nutrition is the biggest key. I like to make sure that my show goats get the best amount of protein that they can to build up their muscle shape, and I spend hours a day working with them.”
Barcellos said she typically acquires goats at 4-5 months of age, and feeds them for another three to four months before they are ready for the show ring.
Being in the ring, she added, is the ultimate reward for her efforts.
“I love being able to raise an animal and watch it grow. I love showing,” Barcellos commented. “It is an amazing experience to raise an animal and see your hard work pay off.”
Typically, Barcellos said, she would show goats at both the Spring Fair in Los Banos and the county fair in Merced.
Both fairs were canceled last year, and the Spring Fair will not be held this year. Barcellos is holding out hope, though, that she will have an opportunity to show at the Merced County Fair this summer.
“They are really pushing hard to have an in-person show,” she stated.
She has tried to make the most of the situation.
“I bought a goat last January that I was going to show at the fair. Since it was canceled, I decided to keep the goat and start breeding and get my own production,” Barcellos shared. “Since then I have been starting my own breeding herd.”
She acknowledges that not being able to be in the show ring has been disappointing.
“You only get four years of FFA. It was like this year was kind of taken away from us,” Barcellos remarked. “We are not able to display all of our hard work on these projects. It is upsetting, because I am already a junior and almost done with FFA.”
Her FFA resume, however, goes well beyond the livestock rings.
In addition to the freshman Creed contest, Barcellos has been active in livestock judging each year, and this year entered her breeding goat endeavor in the project competition. She is also chapter treasurer this year, and placed fifth in the section job interview competition.
Barcellos has also attended the state and national FFA conferences - experiences which she termed amazing.
“Before going to national convention I never realized how many people were as passionate about FFA as I was,” she said. “Just getting to go with some of my FFA members out of state and seeing members from around the (nation) was amazing.”
She has her sights set on additional accomplishments. Barcellos said she would like to be Gustine’s chapter president next year, and also hopes to land section and region officer posts.
After high school, Barcellos plans to study veterinary science with the goal of becoming a large animal veterinarian.
Her FFA experiences, Barcellos shared, have helped prepare her for the college years and career that will follow her time at Gustine High.
“FFA,” she concluded, “has definitely helped me in many different ways.”