Target Grade Level / Age Range:

3rd-4th Grade


60 minutes

Virtual Learning:

Use this document to convert the lesson into a virtual learning module for your students. Use the steps outlined to create the different elements of a Google Classroom or other online learning platform. You can also send the steps directly to students in a PDF, present them in a virtual meeting, or plug them into any other virtual learning module system. 


The students will learn about livestock raised in Iowa while strengthening their language arts and 21 st century skills through basic internet research.    


  • Teacher will need a computer with internet access and list of websites (below)
  • Smartboard or projector
  • Students will need computer and internet access
  • Graphic Organizer – Animals.docx
  • Poster paper and markers (optional)
  • Computers or tablets with internet access – one for every student

Suggested Companion Resources (books and websites)

Vocabulary (with definitions)

  • Agriculture: Raising plants and animals for food, fiber and fuel.
  • Product: something that comes directly from the animal.
  • By-Product: a secondary product that comes from an animal. Something must be done to the product before it can be used.
  • Layers: Laying hens used primarily for egg production
  • Broilers: Chickens raised primarily for meat production

Background – Agricultural Connections (what would a teacher need to know to be able to teach this content)

Iowa agriculture leads the nation in many areas, including pork produced and eggs produced. Iowa also leads the nation in the production of corn and soybeans. These crops have many uses, with the number one use being feeding livestock. Corn is used as an energy source in most feeds, and soybeans serve as protein.

While Iowa is home to many kinds of livestock, they might not all be visible while driving through. Many animals today are raised indoors to help protect them from predators, disease, and extreme temperatures. Housing animals indoors can also make it easier for the producer to care for the animals.

Pigs, sometimes called hogs, are generally raised indoors. The buildings they are raised in can vary from hoop buildings to climate controlled structures. Biosecurity is important in hog production. This simply means that producers want to do as much as possible to stop disease from entering their facility. Producers may require that visitors wear plastic booties over their shoes, wear coveralls, or, in some cases, shower before entering and after leaving. Pigs eat a mix of corn and soybeans, as well as vitamins and minerals. Products we get from pigs can range from pork, to lard, to medical products like insulin or heart valves!

Most of the chickens raised in Iowa are “layers” or laying hens. Chickens raised for their meat are called broilers. Chickens, like pigs, are raised indoors with great attention to biosecurity. Chickens also eat a mixture of corn and soybeans. If given the opportunity, a chicken may eat insects, or even small rodents. Chickens primarily either produce eggs or meat for human consumers.

There are many different ways to raise cattle, but in Iowa, “cow-calf” producers are among the most common. In some parts of the country, cattle are primarily fed out in feedlots. In these operations, producers will purchase cattle from cow-calf producers or backgrounders (backgrounding is the term for raising the animal in between the weaning and feedlot stages). Feedlot owners will then feed the animal until it is ready to harvest. Cow-calf producers will generally have their animals on pasture. Cows eat mostly roughages (also called forages; materials like grass, alfalfa, hay, etc.), but will generally be fed a corn and soybean mixture during the feedlot stage. Grains (called concentrates) help the animals gain weight much more quickly than they do on forages. Cattle give us many things, including leather, beef, and dairy products. It is important to note that there are differences in beef cattle and dairy cattle, and Iowa primarily raises beef cattle. However, we do raise some dairy cattle in Iowa, and eventually dairy cattle will also find their way into the beef industry.

Sheep can be raised for two main purposes: meat or wool. Generally speaking, wool breeds of sheep are white all over, and are raised in drier Western regions, like Wyoming. Meat breeds generally have black faces and are more common in farmstead-type operations, like what we have in Iowa. Meat harvested from a young sheep animal (1-year-old or less) is called lamb. Meat harvested from an older animal is called mutton. There is a distinct flavor difference between lamb and mutton, and many find the strong flavor of mutton off-putting. Sheep are ruminant animals, like cattle. They are generally raised on pastures, and eat forages. Sheep also may be fed grains to supplement nutritional needs or help facilitate growth. Besides meat and wool, sheep can be used for the lanolin in their wool (lotions), milk, and even some medical/research purposes!

When we think of turkeys, we generally think of the big brown ones we see crossing the road or in decorations at Thanksgiving, but many turkeys on farms are actually white! This is because when the turkeys have brown feathers, it leaves the skin of the animal marked with small brown dots where the feathers were. There’s no issue with this, but consumers like the looks of a blemish-free turkey, so farmers raise ones with white feathers! Turkeys are generally raised in large barns, and are free to roam throughout the barn. Turkeys eat ground corn and soybean meal, primarily. They are also fed vitamins, minerals, and water. Turkeys are raised for meat.

Interest Approach or Motivator

Put a picture of a meal on the board. Have the students share what foods they see in the picture and whether that food came from a plant or an animal.

Ask the students about where different foods come from. Where do hamburgers come from? Where do pork chops or bacon come from? What about eggs and chicken legs?  Or cheese and ice cream?


This class period will need to take place somewhere that students can work on computers either individually or in small groups. Before using the computers, it may be helpful to give a recap of how to use computers appropriately.

  1. Ask the students what kinds of animals are raised in Iowa. Let them brainstorm some types of livestock.
  2. Hand out the Graphic Organizer – Animals worksheet. Explain that today they will be learning about these five animals.
  3. The students will be looking at the five animals that are most common on Iowa farms: cows, pigs, chickens, sheep and turkeys. They can either work in groups or individually, depending on amount of computers, etc. If splitting students in groups, have one group for each animal. If working individually, assign each student to one animal.
  4. Once worksheets are handed out and groups or animal assignments have been given, display the list of websites they can use on the board. Explain that they need to answer the three questions about their animal on their worksheet. The websites displayed are where they should begin their search. Should they need to find more information, instruct them to use a database system like EBSCO. If another instructor, like a librarian, would need to help with this, ask them to attend in advance.
  5. If using groups, have them designate one person to be the recorder, one to be the reporter and others to be the searchers. Give the students about 15 minutes to research their animals.
  6. When the students have their information, have the students report back to the class what they found. They can either read from their worksheet, or present a small poster. Instruct the other students to fill in their worksheets with the information given.
  7. After each group presents the information they found, allow other students to ask questions. Ask what students are still curious about, or didn’t know previously. Feel free to help the presenting students in answering questions that may be more complicated, or do more research as a class to answer some tricky questions.
  8. Wrap up the class period by asking students what surprised them, or what they didn’t know. Did they find all the information they needed in one location? Will they always find all of their information in one place? Why is research important?
  9. Allow students to give some closing thoughts about Iowa livestock, and collect their worksheets at the end of class.

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)

Did you know? (Ag facts)

  • Number of hogs produced: #1 in the nation
  • Number of Eggs laid: #1 in the nation
  • Number of sheep and wool produced: Number #10 in the nation
  • Number of cattle and calves: #7 in the nation
  • Number of turkeys produced: #8 in the nation
  • Milk and dairy products: #12 in the nation
  • Milk goats produced: #3 in the nation

Extension Activities (how students can carry this beyond the classroom)

  • Have the students take note of what items they have in their homes that come from animals. They can read labels on their food and look for things that might contain animal byproducts, like furniture and carpet.
  • Students could virtually experience various types of livestock production in Iowa through Skype or another video chat service. Students could use their background knowledge from the research activity to help prepare them to see different operations.


Learning Fields from Living History Farms - 


Phyllis Paulsen

Organization Affiliatio

East Mills CSD

National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • Science:
    • T1.3-5 e. Recognize the natural resources used in agricultural practices to produce food, feed, clothing, landscaping plans and fuel (e.g. soil, water, air plants, animals, and minerals)
    • T2.3-5 d. Provide examples of specific ways farmers/ranchers meet the needs of animals
  • Social Studies:
    • T5.3-5 d. Explain the value of agriculture and how it is important in daily life
    • T5.3-5 f. Understand the agricultural history of an individual’s specific community and/or state

Iowa Core Standards

  • 21st Century Skills
    • 21.3-5.TL.2: Use interactive technologies in a collaborative group to produce digital presentations or products in a curricular area
    • 21.3-5.TL.3: Utilize digital tools and resources to investigate real-world issues, answer questions, or solve problems
    • 21.3-5.TL.4: Use technological resources to develop and refine questions for investigation
    • 21.3-5.ES.1: Communicate and work productively with others emphasizing collaboration and cultural awareness to produce quality work
    • 21.3-5.ES.2: Adjust to various roles and responsibilities and understand the need to be flexible to change
  • Literacy:
    • RI.3.1: Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.             
    • RI.4.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
    • IA.1 (DOK 2,3): Employ the full range of research-based comprehension strategies, including making connections, determining importance, questioning, visualizing, making inferences, summarizing, and monitoring for comprehension.
    • RI.3.5: Use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.

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