Welcome to The Blue Ribbon - Youth Livestock Projects blog. The purpose of this blog is to provide information, advice and suggestions for improving youth livestock projects from multiple sources. The information, advice and suggestions in this blog come from professional agricultural educators who have multiple years of experience working with youth and their livestock projects. If you ever have a question or a particular subject you would like addressed, please feel free to contact Scott Stinnett via email, or leave a comment and we will do our best to assist or address the subject. Should the question or subject be more technical, we will help direct you to an appropriate resource for the best possible answer.

Thank you,

Scott Stinnett and The Blue Ribbon Contributors

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Fair is Over! What Did You Learn?

     County fairs are about a lot of things. The rides, the food, the rodeo, the demolition derby, and the time together with neighbors to visit and enjoy an annual summertime event. For youth livestock exhibitors, it might be the chance to show your animals, hang out with your friends, and make a little extra money during the livestock sale.

     The intent of youth livestock shows are to allow the exhibitors to compete with their fellow youth and display the livestock they have spent time and energy caring for, working with, and preparing to exhibit over the past few months. They are examples, to show the general public, how well the youth of today are preparing themselves to be the future of the livestock industry.

     In preparing to become the future of the livestock industry, youth learn valuable lessons by raising one or multiple animals projects for the fair. Everything from animal feeding, health care, animal handling, grooming, livestock marketing, to record keeping are all part of the process of raising a livestock project.

     So, what did you learn this year? When I ask youth this question, the usual response comes from something they considered that went wrong or was a failure. Learning from a mistake is not a bad thing. We all had to fall a few times to learn to walk. It is easy to focus on negatives. They tend to stick with us. I can still tell you the place, the judge and the heifer I was showing when I was named reserve showman, all because I did not comb the spot the judge touched her while asking me questions during showmanship. I never missed combing my claves again, and have always touched a calf when judging a show to make sure the exhibitor combed the spot.

    The thing about the fair is it tends to show us a mistake that was made way before the fair started. So what did you learn this year? Do you need to pick animals of a different age to be the appropriate weight for fair because they were too light or too heavy? Do you need to change your feeding regiment to grow your animals right? How was your showmanship? How well was your animal groomed? Did you have the tack you needed?

     After the fair, everyone is tired. The animals are gone or turned out on pasture. Tack may or may not be unloaded from the trailer. The stalls and pens may still be dirty from when you loaded up and headed out. There is an abundance of dirty laundry, but nothing to eat in the fridge.

     As you start putting things back together, don't forget to make note of what you learned from this year's fair. Start planning for the next fair or show. To improve, make those changes to how you do things. Your next experience will be better than this year's if you do.

Scott Stinnett
Extension Associate
Kit Carson County
Golden Plains Area
Colorado State University Extension

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Importance of Saying Thank You

   4-H members are asked to complete a lot of tasks throughout the year, including thanking people. Members receive awards from fair, sell livestock projects at the fair sale, and receive awards recognition at the achievement banquet. These are all just some instances when saying thank you is so important, but can easily be overlooked.

      Saying thank you, whether that be verbally or written, is extremely important. Dr. Laura Trice explained in her TED talk (2008) that most of us want to be told thank you to show that we are appreciated for the work that was done. Dr. Trice also gives four reasons for saying thank you, which include someone might really need to know someone is appreciative of them, by hearing thank you someone is more likely to pay it forward, it can make someone smile, and it can also improve a person’s mental and physical health. Additionally, Dr. Bernice Ledbetter (2016) explained that gratitude gained from being thanked can improve self-esteem and increase confidence.

     When it comes to thanking people in person, remember eye contact, body language and tone of voice all leave an impression and can impact the effectiveness of a thank you. Of course, the most obvious thing to say is thank you, but it should also be accompanied by a firm handshake. However, there are other phrases that can have similar meaning, such as those suggested by Kat Boogard (2016), which include “I really appreciate that,” “You’re a Lifesaver,” and “How Can I Repay You?”

     While verbal thank you’s are perhaps the most common, another method of thanking someone, writing is just as important. However, thank you notes have become less and less common in today’s society. Nancy Olson (2017) considered the reasons to write thank you notes to include it’s the right thing to do, it sets you apart from others, and gratitude is good for the brain. Allison Capley (2014) adds that thank you notes help build relationships, demonstrate your communication skills, and it is more personal than a text or email.

     Written thank you notes need to be well-written. In a guide provided by the University Idaho Extension, elements of a thank you note should include a greeting, expressing your gratitude, discussing use of the donation, thanking the donor again, and a closing salutation. Additional recommendations include using plain stationary and cards, always plan ahead, use blue or black ink, handwrite your notes, take your time, and keep them short and sweet, but meaningful. The most important part is simply making sure you write those thank you notes. Spelling and grammar is also important, as this leaves an impression.

     There has been a rise in providing buyer gifts at fair livestock auctions. While this is in no means a requirement, it is another method of saying thank you that many have adopted. Baskets with items they can use when preparing the meat from the animal they purchased, baked goods, and candy are all things that indicate appreciation. Taking things later by the person’s business is another way to say thanks. However, such items should also not replace a verbal and written thank you.
     It is important for 4-H members to remember that each contribution (no matter the size) are gifts that the donor felt they were able to give. A sincere thank you can certainly make it more likely the donor will return with their support. Therefore, it is important to remember to say thank you!
Amy Kelley
4-H Extension Agent
Cheyenne County
Southeast Area
Colorado State University 

Friday, July 6, 2018

I Have to Show a Horse in Round Robin! What Do I Do?

     At many county fairs, a multi-species showmanship competition is part of the youth shows. They go by many names, Super Showmanship, Supreme Showman and in our area, Round Robin Showmanship. Most competitions take the top showman from each species and have them show one of every other species. Many stay with meat animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. A few add poultry. The biggest addition usually is halter horses.

     Many youth are either livestock kids or horse kids. Showing a new species that is completely unfamiliar is intimidating. Livestock showman, now tasked with showing a horse at halter, need to understand some basic things to safely and properly exhibit a horse.

    Let's address safety first. Horses react differently and must be handled differently than livestock. Showing a horse at halter is similar to cattle, but the differences must recognized.
  • Horses are like cattle and have blind spots in front of their nose and directly behind them. Do not sneak into their blind spot.
  • Horse halters fit differently. A cattle halter has a chain under the chin to keep their head up. Horse halter lead chains can go over the nose or under the chin.  We might lightly "pop" a calf's chain to ask them to get their head up, but if you do this to a horse, you could have a blowup on your hands.
  • If a horse does panic, they usually pull back. This will put pressure on the halter lead chain. Do not try to pull them forward. Try and walk backwards with them to keep the pressure off of the chain.
  • How you hold the lead is different. A calf lead is held close to the halter with some upward pressure to keep the calf's head up. A horse halter lead is held loosely and no pressure is applied unless you are asking for them to move.
  • We use a show stick to move cattle feet. We use the halter to ask a horse to move their legs and may use hands to move horse's front feet. Youth need to learn to stand safely to the side when moving the horse's feet.
     Showing halter horses is a two part process. Horses are shown standing still during  "inspection" by the judge. They will also be asked to move by walking and trotting away and back to the judge. Exhibitors may be asked to perform a basic pattern provided by the judge. The pattern should be studied, memorized and then followed by the exhibitor. It may include walking, trotting, rotating, stopping and backing the horse.

     A halter horse should be standing square on all four feet for inspection. To move a horse into proper position, the exhibitor will use the halter only. Start with the back feet. It is easier to ask a horse to step back a foot than to step one forward. Step around to the horse's left shoulder and ask them to step back until they move the desired foot to be even with the other back foot. To set the front feet, decide which one is set correctly. Now ask the horse to either set the incorrect foot back or forward by pulling or pushing gently on the halter.

     Showing at inspection means understanding the Quarter Method which divides the area around the horse into four quarters or quadrants. Imagine drawing two lines on the ground. The first runs from the nose to the tail dividing the horse into left and right. The second line would divide the horse into front and back and forming the four quadrants. The exhibitor will need to rotate between the front two quadrants as the judge goes around the horse during inspection. The idea is to be out of the judges view as they examine the horse, as well as keep the judge and other exhibitors safe.

  • Judge is at the horse's front right, exhibitor is at the front left.
  • Judge is at the horse's rear right, exhibitor moves to front right.
  • Judge is at the horse's rear left, exhibitor moves to front left.
  • Judge is at the horse's front left, exhibitor moves to front right.
     The exhibitor should keep the lead in the right hand as they show the horse with their arm extended out toward the horse's head. They should stand straight, and keep their eyes on the judge. When the exhibitor needs to switch sides, they should drop the lead slightly to go under the horses chin, and step quick and purposely to the other side.

     When it comes to moving the horse or performing the pattern, the exhibitor needs to stay on the horse's left side and face forward at all times, unless backing the horse, or setting up legs. Clicking, smooching or other minor noises to cue the horse to move are acceptable. The exhibitor should not touch the horse's body at any time when moving the horse at the walk and trot, or while performing a pattern. If the horse balks or stalls, keep trying to move them, but at some point a ring steward will help you get them moving.

     Now if you are a horse exhibitor, parent or trainer and this seems way to simplified, it is. This post is to try and help those livestock exhibitors who have never touched a horse to have some idea of what is expected.

Here are some additional resources on showing halter horses:

Judging Horse Events - Showmanship at Halter eXtension.org
Basics of the Showmanship Set-Up: A Breakdown of the Quarter Method AQHA
Quartering System for Horse Showmanship Oregon State University Extension, YouTube Video

Don't worry. You can do this. And don't forget to ask for help!

Thank you to these two ladies for assisting with this post and adding their input:
Kali Benson, Colorado State University, Extension Agent, Elbert County, CO
Kelli Vaughn, 4-H Volunteer, Horse Project Leader, Kit Carson County, CO

Scott Stinnett
Extension Associate
Kit Carson County
Golden Plains Area
Colorado State University Extension

Thursday, June 28, 2018

I Can't Ask Them For Help!

 "I can't ask them for help. They won't help me. They're the competition!"

     In my career in Extension and Ag Teaching, I heard this set of excuses every year from a youth new to showing livestock. These statements may be true in other areas of youth competition, but in the world of 4-H, FFA and junior livestock associations, help is more readily available than a youth understands.

     One of the greatest things about our livestock youth is that peer mentoring is a pillar of the program. Maybe it comes from the good ol' "help my neighbor" mentality that becomes instilled in youth raising livestock. It may be as simple as touching a stalled calf's tail to get them to move, to taking time to act as youth clinicians during a showmanship camp.

     The reason one youth helps another youth to become better with their livestock project may vary from general good heartedness, wanting to impress with their knowledge, wanting to become an ag teacher, 4-H agent or the next famous show jock. The fact is, kids like helping kids, and kids will listen to other kids. There is a connection between youth who share a common interest in livestock.

     So I could go on and on with this soapbox speech of how great livestock youth are, but I need to get to the point of this post.

     It is simple, just say these words to someone who has shown your species of livestock "Can you help me?" Those four words might make you a new friend, and help you to get better with your livestock project. Most everybody who has shown livestock remembers how frustrating and difficult it seems when you first start out, and remember the person who helped them. They will help you.

     Now it is not to say there aren't a few sour apples who might tell you no, but just ask someone else, and it won't take long before you will find help.

     Go visit them and see how they work with their animals. Agree to meet them somewhere and practice showmanship together. Watch and learn while they clip their animals. Ask them to help you clip, by watching and giving you advice as you do it.

When it comes to asking for help, follow the Nike motto "Just Do It".

Scott Stinnett
Extension Associate
Kit Carson County
Golden Plains Area
Colorado State University Extension