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

Friday, July 21, 2017

How Cool Are Your Animals?!

     It is 4 days until our county fair starts and we are in the midst of some high daily temperatures ranging from 95°F to 100°F. Too say the least, it is a little uncomfortable working around the fairgrounds, doing some preparations for the fair.

     The livestock also are feeling the heat, too. The responsibility of the youth taking care of animals in this heat is to try and provide an environment that keeps them as cool and comfortable as possible. The best situation is to provide a place where the animals can get some access to water and shade. Why? Water and shade are the only ways that livestock can effectively cool themselves.
     Here is an example of the possible cooling effects of shade along with ground cover. I went out on to our fairgrounds at 3 P.M on a 96°F day and took surface temperature readings of the ground on 4 different areas.


    Top Left: 139°F bare ground gravel parking lot,
Top Right: 96°F grass without shade (same as air temperature),
Bottom Left: 90°F bare ground under a shed,
Bottom Right: 80°F grass under a shade tree 

      If you could choose to lay yourself down on 80°F grass in the shade or the middle of a 139° parking lot, where would you lay down? I think that is a pretty easy answer for any of us. So where do your livestock get to lay down during the day?
     Any available shade blocks the heating effects of the sun and allows the ground to stay much cooler than being in direct sunlight. Laying on the cooler ground, helps animals to cool off.  Along with fresh water, an animal can maintain their body temperature to within a few tenths of a degree of their normal.

   Most good livestock managers understand the importance of water. It is the most important nutrient and can be a limiting factor for many body functions when an animal does not get enough to drink. But how much water does an animal need on a hot day?

     Here is a great resource form NDSU Extension, Livestock Water Requirements. From it we can use an example. A 1000 lbs. finishing steer, getting ready for the summer fair, will need a little more than 12 gallons of water on a 70°F day. When the temperature rises to 80°F, the steer needs a little more than 14 gallons. But when the temps get above 90°F, more than 20 gallons of water is needed. That is a 60% increase in water intake!

     And what is the best water? The answer is always FRESH. Fresh, clean, cool water should always be available to livestock. There should be enough water available to exceed their daily needs. It should also be changed out frequently. When you do your daily checks of your animals, and/or every time you feed, change their water and clean out their water bucket or tank.

     Let's make this simple, livestock need shade and water when it gets hot, period. As a youth, do not ignore these two things for your livestock. You are responsible for their care not matter what the weather.

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

Sportsmanship for the Show Ring

     In every competitive youth activity, there is an unspoken code of conduct we call sportsmanship. This includes the livestock show ring. So what if you are new to the show ring? What are some of these unspoken rules?

Personal Actions

     How a youth acts in the show ring is just as important as how well they exhibit their animal. Actions their fellow exhibitors, the judge and the public will notice need to be positive ones. I have been asked to judge a few youth shows and have been an interested party at several in my career. Here is what I remind youth to think about in the show ring:
  • Be Pleasant - You do not have to be overly happy but do not be grumpy. Act like you want to be in the show ring.
  • Be Polite - Use basic manners with the people around you. Say "yes sir," "yes ma'am," "no sir," "no ma'am," "excuse me," "thank you" and "I'm sorry."
  • Be Helpful - Take care of yourself and your animal, but if another exhibitor needs some help, offer it and help out.
  • Be Honest - when showing or during showmanship, if you do not know the answer to a question asked by a judge, say "I do not know." Making up an answer, especially one that the judge will know is wrong, is not going to help you.
  • Be a Good Winner - When you win or place high in your class, be a good winner. You can show you are excited, but don't show out.
  • Be a Good Loser - If things do not go your way, it is okay to show some disappointment, but do not blame, do not throw a fit, and do not take it out on your animal or the people who help you.
  • Shake Hands - Win or lose, shaking hands shows you are respectful. Shake hands with the judge as you leave the show ring. Shake hands with your fellow exhibitors, especially the winners.

Exhibiting Fairly

     In the show ring, how you exhibit also follows a code of conduct. The idea is to be competitive, and still be fair with your fellow exhibitors. Here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Take Care of Your Animal- If you think you need to do something for a fellow exhibitor don't. In the show ring, each exhibitor is responsible for their animal. Even if that exhibitor is your sibling, friend or fellow club member, helping may be viewed as "team work". Team work is not fair in the show ring.
  • Do Not Touch Another Animal- It is tempting to move another exhibitors animal to either help them or to get them out of your way, but it is not the right thing to do in the show ring. The exception would be things like an escaped sheep, goat, calf or fighting pigs. But be careful. Helping and losing control of your animal may make it worse.
  • Do Not Take Someone's Place In Line - If you want to be the first in the ring, then get to the gate early. If you want to be last, hang back. If you want to go in with a fellow exhibitor, then stay together.
  • Follow Directions - If a judge or ring steward asks you to do something, then follow the direction. You may not know why they want you to do it, but it may be for your benefit.

Be Ethical

     The hardest thing for a youth exhibitor to face is standing up to unethical show ring practices. No matter what the unethical action is, or how severely unethical it is, the youth will be the one held responsible. Unethical actions are cheating.

     When an adult, like a parent, breeder or volunteer tells a youth to go ahead and do something unethical, it is the responsibility of the youth to say no. This is hard for a youth. They are taught to hopefully listen to adults in authority, but this is part of the growth that goes with exhibiting.

     A youth should feel empowered to say, "I don't want to show that way." "It is cheating." "It is not fair." If they need someone to back them up, that's great. A youth should go find an adult or maybe even an older exhibitor to be their moral support when they confront the unethical person. Win or lose, unethical actions have no place in youth livestock shows.

     For our area, the county fairs are about to begin. I hope your experience at the show is a good one, and you have success with your projects.  Just remember to be ethical, be competitive but most of all have fun.

     Youth exhibitors are the face and the future of the livestock industry in the United States. Thank you for all your hard work and commitment to your livestock projects.

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

Friday, July 7, 2017

Show Ring Style - Making a Good Impression

     I will not profess to being a style guru, but as someone who has judged in the show ring and stood along the fence at many more shows, I can say the first impression counts. In an ideal world, the attire of an exhibitor would be completely ignored and the animals would be judged on their merits and presentation alone. But let's face it, the animal and the exhibitor are a pair. The way the exhibitor presents themselves can have an influence on the judge. It may also affect the exhibitor's ability to present the animal. Without getting into specifics of fashion, there are some things that exhibitors should keep in mind to help present themselves and their animals.

     There are a few livestock shows that have a required dress code to try and level the playing field when it comes to attire. These dress codes try to prevent unintentionally influencing judges by having exhibitors appear in as similar attire as possible. Some provide a shirt, require some type of official dress, or certain colors of clothing to be worn. This can help, but other accessories and personal style choices can still cause a judge to be swayed. Why? As people, we are drawn to things that are familiar to us, like style of clothing. If the exhibitor dresses in a manner the judge sees as familiar, it can be a positive for the exhibitor. Styles that seem unfamiliar or even odd to the judge can make a negative impression.

     How should an exhibitor dress? Here are basic guidelines of styles for young ladies and men that would not create a bad impression.

Young Ladies:
  • Top - The preferred top would be a long sleeve button up shirt. It is sometimes a little harder to find these for young ladies, so shop early or online. These shirts need to be pressed and wrinkle free. Tops with straps, exposed shoulders, off the shoulders, too loose, too tight or too flowing would be distracting. I would further suggest any extras, like fringe and sequence, be limited. They can be distracting to your animal. For example, I have seen goats and lambs chewing on shirt fringe!
  • Pants - For most shows, a clean, wrinkle free pair of dark color jeans in new condition is best. No holes, rips or excessively faded ones. They should fit appropriately, not too tight, not baggy either. 
  • Shoes - Closed toed, leather shoes like boots, chukkas or other sturdy footwear are best. Mainly it provides safety from livestock stepping on your toes, but also provides proper traction while walking in the show ring. Now they do not have to be plain, but they must be clean and in good condition.
  • Accessories - Belts, jewelry and other accessories may be included in your personal style. Be sure that these items do not cause added distraction or cause problems when showing.
  • Hair - Up, out of the face with hairpins, clips, pony tails, ribbons or headbands. Young ladies who are constantly having to move hair out of their face are distracting, especially those who like to flip their hair by hand, or by flipping their head. Hair up can also be cooler to the exhibitor as the stress and work of exhibiting in the show ring tends to make you feel hot.
  • Cosmetics - This is a very personal choice, but the point I will make is be sure makeup or other cosmetics are not distracting.
Young Men:
  • Top - The preferred is a full button up, long sleeve shirt. Make sure they are pressed and wrinkle free. In certain situations it could be a golf style shirt with a collar, but No T-shirts Ever!
  • Pants - Clean, wrinkle free pair of dark color jeans, without any holes, rips or excessive wear are the best. Fit should also be appropriate. No extra tight or extra baggy jeans.
  • Shoes - Closed toed, leather shoes like boots, chukkas or other sturdy footwear are best. Again they provided safety from livestock stepping on your toes, and proper traction in the show ring. Make sure they are clean and in good condition.
  • Accessories - Belts, jewelry and other accessories may also be included in your personal style. Hat, ball cap, or cowboy hat, should not be part of a youth exhibitors style. Hats can cover the face similar to the way hair in the face can.
  • Hair - Keep it neat and out of the face as well. Young men are not as particular sometimes about hair, but hat hair is not the best either. Take time to groom, brush, comb or whatever is necessary to look presentable. For older exhibitors, this also includes grooming facial hair.
         Another thing to remember is keeping those show clothes clean. A basic hanging garment bag is a great piece of luggage to have at the show. It helps keep show clothes, clean and hanging wrinkle free in the sometimes dirty, wet and windy show barn.

     If you wonder what styles are being worn in the show ring, take time to look through a livestock show magazine or watch a youth livestock show online. No matter where in the country you show, styles will be similar. Take note on what you like and make it work for you. Just make sure it is appropriate, clean and not distracting. The best source for style tips might be the top senior showmanship girls and guys in your community. You do not need to perfectly copy their style, but they can show you what they wear and give some good peer to peer advice.

     Thanks to JoLynn Midcap, Extension Associate in Yuma County, Colorado and Kindra Plumb, Extension Associate in Philips County, Colorado for their input on this post as 4-H leaders and show moms.

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

Friday, June 30, 2017

What's in My Show Box - Horses

     Fitting your horse can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. All horses brought to county fair should, at the very least, have a clean coat, well-trimmed or shod feet, tangle free mane and tail, and their nose and corners of their eyes wiped out. If you want to get a little more in-depth – read on! If you really want to nerd – out over grooming your horse, there are several YouTube videos that you can access, as well as some great books like “Grooming to Win” by Susan E. Harris, and Western Horseman’s “Grooming” by Joe and Cindy Weaver and Kathy Swan, that will have lots of good ideas for you.

Basics for Show Box
  • Rags / Towels – wipe out nose boogers and eye boogers, clean dust of your horse, wipe down tack and boots before you enter into the arena
  • Rubber Curry Comb – shed hair, remove sweat marks and mud
  • Stiff and Soft Brushes – brush out dander and dust. Use the soft brush on the head and sensitive areas, final dust off with show sheen product with the soft brush
  • Hoof Pick – clean out hooves, scrape off mud and manure from the outside of the hoof
  • Show Sheen type product – detangler, dirt and green spot repellant.
  • Fly Spray – find a spray that works for you. Spray your horse’s legs and underline for Showmanship and Halter – this helps to discourage them moving after you’ve squared them up. Use sparingly on the body for the halter and showmanship classes – most fly sprays act like a dirt magnet.
  • Baby Powder / Corn Starch – helps to whiten and let markings. Be sure to brush the powder into the skin and then brush off the excess (pro-tip – don’t back the hooves right before you use these products – it’s a mess)
  • Baby Oil – grease your horse’s muzzle, bridle path, and the top of their eyes. Can also be used to tame flyaway in the forelock and mane
  • Safety Pins – Always, always have extras! Pinning on numbers, emergency pants/shirt repair etc.
  • Mane & Tail comb – something wider toothed so you don’t rip out as much tail hair, smaller toothed if you are going to band your horse’s mane.
  • Shampoo / Conditioner – something mild.
  • Hose - In order to bath or to fill water buckets.

Basics for the Trailer
  • Buckets - always bring your own buckets for water. This helps to minimize spread of disease – as much as we like to share in 4-H, only let horses that live together drink out of the same bucket.
  • Hay & Feed - Always bring extra. If you use a bag or net, or pans, bring them as well.
  • Extra Halters & Lead Ropes - Things happen – if you have a horse set back and break a lead, it’s nice to have a backup.
  • Shavings & Bedding - Unless the show you are going to doesn’t allow for outside bedding. Check with the show manager before you leave.
  • Stall Fork & Muck Bucket or Wheelbarrow - Keep you stalling / trailer area clean. This helps keep you and your groomed horse clean and helps to keep the flies down.
  • Health Certificates / Brand Inspections - Just good to have with you, some shows will require this at time of entry.
  • Hair - Like all of your 4-H animals, coat condition isn’t in a bottle – it starts with good nutrition and worming program, as well as some elbow grease on your end. The rubber curry comb is used more than just for shedding out hair. Use the rubber curry in a circular motion to remove sweat marks and long hair. At this point in the summer, your horse should be shed out, so instead, use the rubber curry in straight strokes – this helps to shorten the hair shaft, so that it lays flat. It also stimulates skin to produce natural oils so your horse’s coat has better shine in the sun.
  • Bathing - When washing your horse, use a small bucket with a little bit of shampoo mixed with the water and a brush to wash the body – just like you may do with other livestock. Scrub them down and make sure you rinse completely. Pay special attention to the fronts of the hind cannon bones on Geldings and the back of the hock and cannon bones on Mares. Urine mixed with dirt and sweat makes for a funky mess of skin and hair. Be watching for your horse to be rubbing their mane and tail. When washing the mane and tail, don’t dilute the shampoo and be sure to wash clear down to the skin on both the tail head and mane bed, but also make sure you get all the shampoo out. Left over residue will also encourage rubbing. Use a good conditioner on the mane and tail. Leave it in unless it’s right before a show. You can make a conditioner rinse by mixing the conditioner and water in a small bucket and use a sponge to apply to the rest of the body in order to keep the skin from drying out.
  • Clipping - Wash your horse a few days before the show, body, mane and tail. Do not do a conditioner rinse on the body and be sure to wash all the conditioner out of mane and tail. Leaving the conditioner in will dull your clipper blades and attract dirt. Once they’re dry, now is the time to use your clippers. A #10 will do great to trim the hair around the coronet band, feathers around the fetlock and any white markings that you would want to “boot up” (this is clipping the white leg markings to a shorter length so dirt doesn’t stick to them as much). The #10 will also do well to trim under the jaw to clean up that long hair from the throat latch to the chin. You can knock the muzzle hairs, bridle path and the long hairs over the top of the eye (NOT the eyelashes) with the #10. The day before the show, use a #40 to clean up the muzzle stubble (or a razor – just be careful about nicks) as well as the bridle path. If you are so inclined to clip their ears, the night before the show is not the time to do it the first time. Getting horses desensitized to clippers, especially in their ears, is a process and you should work with someone like an older 4-Her, leader or Agent, to help you with this process. If you can get a set of battery operated smaller clippers, these work great for ears. They are a lot more manageable down in the crevices of the ear and are quieter.                                                 
  • After Clipping - Spray your horse down with a “show sheen” type product, just don’t use too much on the saddle and girth area as this product can potentially cause your saddle to slip. But do a heavy application on any white leg or body markings, but not the face. You can use a light sheet and/or slinky (think of a horse sized lamb tube) to help keep your horse clean overnight before the show.
  • Mane & Tail - How you want to style your horse’s mane is up to you. When clipping the bridle path, start no further forward than the top of the poll. Trim either just enough for your halter/bridle or 4-6” back (the length of the horse’s ear). Some folks pull the mane short (2-4”) and band it (think of 40 tiny pony tails that lay flat against the horse’s neck). If you decide to do this, DO NOT cut the mane straight across with a pair of scissors. Bands should lay flat, and be evenly spaced. Practice this technique now so you are comfortable for the night before the show. Otherwise, leaving your horse’s mane long is fine. You can shape it a bit, using a technique called “pulling” so that the longest length of the mane is at the point of the shoulder. Never cut the forelock, but brush the tangles out and band it if you desire. If you have one of those horses that actually grows a tail, LUCKY YOU! Trim it straight across the bottom. This is called a “banged” tail. The length will depend on your horse. An inch or so from the ground is good for most horses. Reiners and cutters who are more inclined to step on and rip out their tail, trim about even with the hind fetlock.
  • Hoof care - Clean your horse’s hooves with your hoof pick. Make sure clinches are tight and in good condition. If you want to use hoof black or clear coat, that’s up to you. If you use black, be sure that you trim the coronet band hair, otherwise the long hair will wick up the black and it’s just not that fun to get out. Use clear coat on horses that have breed characteristics associated with striped hooves (Appaloosa) or with horses with white feet. If you have a horse with one white hoof and the rest are black, be consistent. Either black all 4 hooves or clear coat all 4.
  • Saddles and Tack - In an ideal world, we all wipe down our tack after we use it to get sweat and grime off of the leather. In reality, make sure you clean your tack before county fair. First, it shows respect for yourself as an exhibitor, your horse, and your judge. Second, this will actually prolong the life of your tack and equipment! Use a good saddle soap and a conditioner Personally, I still use the yellow cake soap and neatsfoot oil on everything. This can darken light colored leathers, so look for something that won’t darken the leather if you are concerned about leather color. Make sure that you also condition the bottom side of all you saddle flaps, fenders, skirts etc. When cleaning your tack, be sure that you put everything back together so you don’t have an unpleasant surprise when you get to fair. I see people all the time that forget to reattach a curb chain or a back cinch hobble.

Kali Benson
Agriculture, Horticulture, Natural Resources
and 4-H Livestock Agent
Elbert County
Colorado State University Extension

A big Thank You to contributor Kali Benson for this great blog. For all those horse exhibitors out their, keep your heels down, your head up and your hands level, and have a great fair.

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