CASA GRANDE — As a sophomore, Kaydynce Apodaca, 15, has her future mapped out.
She plans to attend the University of Florida, where she hopes to study agribusiness and graduate with a degree focused on cattle artificial insemination, or AI. Someday, she hopes to start a cattle AI business, playing a key role in moving the cattle industry forward.
“Cattle AI is a growing industry,” she said. “And it’s something that’s important to the future of cattle farming.”
Being an agriculture student at Casa Grande Union High School is the first step on her longterm career path.
This year, Apodaca is raising a pig named Dixie — named after her favorite band, the Dixie Chicks — for her FFA project. Last year, she raised a veal calf.
“There’s a big difference between raising a veal calf and a pig,” she said. “With the veal calf, you have to be out here giving it a bottle at 6 a.m. every morning and then they get fed a calf formula replacer.”
Because pigs are fed grains, they don’t require the intensive attention for feeding, so the focus is on training.
“Training a pig is a little more difficult,” she said. “With a calf, you can use a halter and lead, but a pig is much different. We only have a whip to use so it takes time and effort to train them.”
Because she keeps her animal at the school, her days are long.
“I come to school early, usually around 6 in the morning, and I’m out here working with my pig until school starts at 8,” she said. “Then after school, I come back out and work with him some more until about 5:30.”
With future plans for an agribusiness career, she said her time in FFA and ag classes is focused on learning as much as possible.
She competes with the Casa Grande FFA. At the South Central District Dean Merrell Field Day in February, she participated on the Agriculture Sales Team, which placed second.
When she applies to the University of Florida’s agribusiness program in a couple of years, she hopes that her well-rounded ag education earns her a spot.
“There are a lot of schools where I can go for an agribusiness degree, but the University of Florida has the best AI certification program,” she said.
Apodaca was introduced to the idea of AI certification through an area rancher who has a Casa Grande-based business artificially inseminating horses.
“The process is the same for all livestock,” Apodaca said. “I’ve seen it done with horses and know it’s a growing industry for cattle too. Artificially inseminating livestock allows for proper breeding and helps to maintain breed standards in the beef industry.”
As well as raising animals, she’s also involved in the school’s poultry program, where she is learning about the raising and processing of chicken.
But she said FFA is good for students whether they plan for an agricultural future or not.
“FFA helps you decide on a career,” she said. “It’s crazy how many things you can accomplish here. I’ve learned so much.”