Luke Millay: Faith, family and the FFA

By Chad Hobbs 

It was a rainy, overcast day when I pulled up to the barn at Harold and Kim Millay’s house last Saturday to do an interview with their son, MCHS junior Luke Millay. The veterinarian had just left after working the cattle herd and castrating Luke’s 22 day old pigs. Millay, with the help of his friend, Braden Compton, were getting ready to work his second litter of piglets which had just been born days earlier when I walked into the barn.  “Did you know that pigs are born with a low amount of iron in their body so it is crucial that they receive iron supplements to start a healthy path to meet production standards?” asks Millay. “We are also going to cut the needle teeth out of the piglets mouths because they are so sharp they can cut up the momma’s teats and bite each other so we don’t want that to happen.”  It didn’t take long for Millay to light up the overcast day. Though I had come to talk swine, it was his promotion of the FFA and his faith that amazed me as much as his knowledge of the pork industry.  Millay has been helping his dad with beef cattle since he was very young. Then around the age of eight or nine, he began showing hogs at the Meade County Fair and eventually the Kentucky State Fair.  “I really, really love the pork industry: raising pigs, watching them from when they are first born to when they grow up to be 250 pounds. It’s just really remarkable how fast they grow and just what kind of animals they are,” Millay explained.  After going to show pig farms every year to get hogs for the fair and seeing their barns with all the piglets, Millay says he decided he wanted to start raising hogs from birth. Last year, he bought a bred sow. He raised the 13 piglets she had and marketed them to individuals for meat.  He had a lot of people who really liked the meat. This year he expanded to two bred sows and drove to Indiana to get two farrowing crates for them to birth in along with building a weening pad for the first litter.  “If I’m going to do it, I need to do it right. That’s the main thing,” Millay said of the recent additions to the facility. “I take pride in keeping my animals to the highest market standards.”  Following his freshman year, he changed his pathway from engineering to agriculture. He says he has learned so much through his FFA SAE (supervised agriculture experience) diversified livestock project which includes his cattle herd and hogs. The credit and appreciation he has for the national organization runs so deep that it would be easy to confuse him for a spokesman for the FFA.  “I’ve learned so, so much through doing this, and it goes back to FFA,” he says. “FFA has given so many kids the opportunities that they probably otherwise would not have. It’s given us leadership abilities; it’s given us skills. We want more for ourselves; we want more for other people too.”  The hands on experience and leadership skills he cherishes have also led him to become a strong advocate for agriculture. While most students shy away from the principal’s office, Millay has requested meetings with both administrators and the school board in regard to several issues he feels strongly about. One of these meetings revolved around what he felt was inequality towards the Ag department and his desire for a high school barn.  “At school, our Ag department doesn’t have the high tech stuff like all the other pathways. Ag doesn’t. They updated all the other facilities but Ag never got touched,” he explains. “I was trying to push last year that I wanted a barn for school where we can bring in those animals, farrow out some pigs or bring in some cows. Our veterinarian class would learn hands on how to do this kind of stuff.”  With school canceled due to the pandemic many students are upset due to what they are missing out on, but for him it hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing.  “I feel bad for the seniors,” he says. “But I’m almost glad that we don’t have school, though, because I wouldn’t have been here for my first litter. Being able to assist her with birth and making sure all the pigs were alive, pulling them over to the heat lamp, that was definitely a plus for me.”  The litter that was born last week presented challenges that really benefited from him being out of school. The sow birthed four piglets at around 8:50 p.m. but then failed to progress any further. He started making some calls and help arrived around 10:30 that night. He says they ended up pulling 13 more pigs to bring the total litter to 17. He says it took them four hours, and he didn’t get to bed until after 2:00 a.m. After all the other piglets were delivered and under the heat lamp, he took the runt into the house to bottle feed it and keep it warm.  Family is also very important to Millay, and he says his parents have helped show him the right direction over the years. When he was a little younger, they would help guide him in making decisions and how best to invest his money expanding his livestock projects.  “Now they say, Luke, this is your project, this is you, so you do what you think is best. They are putting it all on me now which is good because I’ve learned so much,” Millay said. “It’s been crucial in me developing myself. They have molded me and I couldn’t thank my mom and dad enough.”  Millay has been donating one of his hogs to his church, Holy Guardian Angel, in Irvington for about four or five years for their annual picnic auction. He says it is important for him to take the live hog to the picnic prior to the auction to promote agriculture because some people have never seen a hog that close before, but the biggest reward for him is helping his church.  “It’s a no brainer for me. This is something Jesus Christ would want me to do, to give to his kingdom,” he proclaimed. “I could have probably sold them for a couple hundred dollars, but who cares about that because I know that it’s needed for the church. That’s what Catholic’s are called to do; we are called to give to the church because the church does remarkable things throughout the whole world with that (charity).”  He says his older brother who is in seminary to become a priest has really lit a fire in his eye and reminds him to be holy and to give unconditionally. It doesn’t take long to realize this isn’t your typical self absorbed high school junior.  “Everything I do, while I’m not perfect by any means, but faith plays a big part in anything I can do to help the church; to help the community,” Millay said. “I try to do that because it’s all about giving back. If you can, you need to. That’s one really small thing I can do (donating a hog) and really enjoy it.”  As the interview wrapped up, he asked to say one more thing.  “The FFA forms stronger leaders, agriculture leaders, that are needed. Agriculture is the most important industry. People take it for granted; they don’t know where their food comes from. ‘Oh my food is at the grocery store’ but they don’t know how it got there,” he concludes. “In this time of a pandemic, what’s open? What do people need to survive? Agriculture is important. There is no more land being produced so we need more people designing seeds and GMO’s so we can mass produce food so more people can eat. The food cycle is really amazing.”

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