Welcome

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

First Time Project - Sheep

     This is a continuation to try and answer the question, "what is the best first livestock project?" In this post I will go over the basics about sheep projects. The big considerations again are: type of project, cost of the project, time frame for the project, and ending the project. I will also discuss the  advantages and disadvantages of the project.

Sheep Projects
Project Types
  • There are two main project types for sheep: market, and breeding. (Some projects are raised for wool production, and even some for dairy, but the majority of youth projects are market or breeding, and that will be the focus.)
  • Market sheep are being raised to produce lamb (meat). This could be a wether (male) or a ewe (female). Both will reach market age and weight in less than 10 months.
  • Breeding sheep are raised to become breeding stock and produce lambs. The majority of youth projects are ewes kept to be bred, not rams.
  • Each project has different costs, time frame and manners of ending the project.
Cost of Project:
    • The initial cost of a sheep project can be as low as market value and go up from there. For a show quality sheep, the minimum range is around $150 to $250 per lamb, due to the amount of cost for a sheep breeder to produce show sheep.
    • The facilities costs are highly variable. The basic sheep facility provides a shelter from sun, rain and cold. It has enough feeders or feeder space for each sheep, and the same for waterers. There should be enough space for sheep to all lay down and stand up without stepping on each other, and easily turn around when full grown. The space should also be big enough to allow sheep to urinate and defecate away from their feeders and waterers.
    • Sheep need plenty of space to exercise. Facilities should allow sheep to freely run and play or have access to an exercise area during the day.
    • Breeding sheep will have the added costs of lambing facilities. Most breeders like to use lambing "jugs" or "jails". These are small pens under shelter to keep lambs close to their ewes the first few days after they are born. These pens can be home built or commercially purchased panels. If this is a one time "try it and see", it would be advisable to borrow or rent the panels.
    • There will be veterinary costs associated with sheep projects. They will need to be vaccinated properly and de-wormed periodically to maintain proper health.
              Market Sheep
      • Feed is the most expensive production cost. For market sheep, prices average around $12 to $15 per 50 lbs. bag of show feed.
      • How much to feed will depend on breed and the genetics of your lamb. Sheep gain around 1/2  to 3/4 pounds per day. The rate of gain can vary as well. Sheep can gain 1 pound for every 3 to 7 pounds of feed they consume. With this in mind, you may feed 250 to 700 lbs. of feed depending on how well your sheep grows, its beginning weight and the final desired weight. Doing the math (Total Feed ÷ 50 lbs. per bag = # bags x $15 per bag = Final Cost) around $75 to $210 in bag feed.
      • Sheep are ruminants. This means they have a 4 compartment digestive system and need roughage as part of their diet. To provide the proper roughage, quality grass, alfalfa or mixed hay is needed in their diet. As little as 1/4 pound of hay each feeding can help keep the ruminant system healthy and digesting feed properly. A small square bale of hay can range from $7 to $12 each and can last 60 to 90 days.
      • There are also other feed supplements that can also be included. How beneficial the supplement is, and how much cost it will add is widely variable. I would suggest you visit with the breeder of the sheep to find out which supplements if any they recommend.
      • There are two additional considerations when feeding sheep. First is a proper calcium and phosphorus ratio of 2:1. This means for every 2 pounds of calcium there should be 1 pound of phosphorus consumed. The second consideration is avoiding copper. Sheep can get copper toxicity. Be sure the feed and any supplements you are feeding are safe for sheep and free of copper.

                Breeding Sheep
        • There are different and additional costs if you decide to do a breeding sheep project. They can include:  extended feeding costs, breeding costs, lambing costs and marketing costs.
        • If the ewe was shown, then her costs are the same as the market sheep above. Once the last show is over, feed costs will include feeding the ewe for additional time. Sheep are seasonal breeders and most sheep breeds will only breed during the fall.
        • Between the last show and breeding season, most sheep are turned out on pasture to graze. Pasture rental can vary, but is usually much cheaper than feeding hay and grain.
        • If pasture is not available, feeding a hay ration with some grain is normal. Ewes will consume 3% to 4% of there body weight in feed daily. So a 180 pound ewe will require 5 1/2 to 7 pounds of feed per day. The cost of hay is the same as above, $7 to $12 per small square bale. Bagged feed for ewes is less than show feed and can average $8 to $10 per bag. Ewe diets should be at least 50% or more hay, and grain is used as a supplement to provide added nutrition.
        • It is a little hard to give an estimated cost on feeding since it depends on the quality of hay fed, the quantity of hay and grain fed and the amount of time between the last show and breeding. A good estimate is $.25 to $.50 per day to feed one breeding ewe. It should not cost more than $1 per day.
        • Grain is also made available when the ewe is nursing her new lambs. A rule of thumb is 1 pound of grain per lamb she nurses. This could equal an extra $.20 per day for the 8 weeks lambs typically nurse.
        • Most lambs are supplemented hay and/or grain during the weaning process. Depending on whether lambs are going to pasture or not will determine how much hay or grain supplement they receive.
        • Breeding costs can vary widely depending on the sire (ram) you choose to breed to. Breeding is by natural service which means the ewe and ram must be together. If a youth has just one or two ewes, it does not make sense to buy a ram. Work with a breeder to place your ewes in with their flock during breeding season. You will have to pay something for the care and breeding, but it will be much cheaper than buying and owing a ram of your own.
        • Some costs can be recovered and possibly a profit made by selling baby lambs. Ideally, a ewe has twins. If a breeding produces show quality lambs to sell, a good income can be made. The amount of income depends on how high quality the lambs are at weaning time.
        Time Frame
        • A market sheep project may only last 8 to 10 months. Lambs grow quickly. They are purchased a little after weaning around 8 to 10 weeks old and weighing around 30 to 40 pounds . They can reach market weight of 120 to 160 pounds by the time they are 7 to 8 months old. Market sheep are then sold once they have reached market weight.
        • Breeding sheep can live several years and produce multiple lambs. Most breeding sheep projects will include two lambs each year. Once a ewe is done producing lambs, she too can be sold.
        End of the Project
        • A project lamb can be sold to a private buyer, a commercial buyer or kept for home consumption of the meat. Many county and state fairs will hold a sale to allow youth to sell their project animals. Some have a commercial buyer available for them to sell their sheep to after the shows are over. If the decision is to use the meat for home consumption, the youth and their parents will be responsible for delivering the lamb to a processor, the cost of processing and picking up the meat after processing is complete.
        • No matter who buys the sheep project, they are all eventually destined to be processed for meat. Market lambs will be processed and used for fresh cuts such as lamb chops, leg, and ground lamb. Breeding stock is mostly processed into aged product called mutton.

        Advantages and Disadvantages
        • The length of time for a market sheep project is shorter, 6 to 10 months.
        • There are several sheep breeds. A breed can be chosen to allow exhibitors of any size or age to show. For example, a Southdown lamb may only reach 80 pounds and be great for a young exhibitor, where a large crossbred lamb may be a better fit for a senior exhibitor.
        • Showing sheep can be very physically demanding, especially when learning and working with the sheep to teach them to brace. Some younger exhibitors may not have the best experience if they feel their sheep is too big or strong for them to handle.
        • There does not need to be a lot of tack involved or needed for raising sheep. The is grooming equipment like a trimming stand and clippers that can be borrowed, but can be expensive to buy.
        • Show sheep projects are not always money makers. The difference between the cost of buying and feeding a show lamb versus the market price received for the lamb can be quiet noticeable. A good junior livestock sale is the best way to recover the investment. Selling show quality baby lambs can help to make a breeding project profitable.

        Additional Resources

        Here are some additional resources to help you in your decision making about a swine project:

        4-H/FFA Market Lamb Sheep Projects, Treasure Valley Sheep Producers, Idaho

        4-H Show Lamb Guide, Texas AgriLife Extension Service



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

        Tuesday, October 10, 2017

        First Time Projects - Swine

             Many times I have been asked, "What is the best first livestock project?" And the only response I can give is, "It depends." There are many things to consider when choosing the first livestock project. Most youth want a show quality project so they can participate in the county fair. I try and help parents and youth by going over the basics about each livestock species. The big considerations are: type of project, cost of the project, time frame for the project, and ending the project.

        Over the next few blog posts, I will try and address the considerations for a specific livestock species as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the project.

        Swine Projects
        Project Type
        • There are two project types for swine: market and breeding.
        • Market swine are pigs being raised to produce pork. This could be a barrow (male) or a gilt (female).
        • Breeding swine are pigs raised to become breeding stock and produce litters of baby pigs. The great majority are gilts kept to be bred, not boars.
        • Each project has different costs, time frame and manners of ending the project
        Cost of Project:
        • The initial cost of a swine project can be as low as market value and go up from there. For a show quality pig, the minimum range is around $150 to $250 per pig, due to the amount of cost for a swine breeder to produce show pigs.
        • The facilities costs are highly variable. The basic swine facility provides a shelter from sun, rain and cold. It has enough feeders or feeder space for each pig, and the same for waterers. There should be enough space for pigs to all lay down and stand up without stepping on each other, and easily turn around when full grown. The space should also be big enough to allow pigs to urinate and defecate away from their feeders and waterers.
        • Breeding swine will have the added costs of farrowing equipment. This equipment can be home built or commercially produced. If this is a one time "try it and see", it would be advisable to borrow or rent the equipment.
                  Market Swine
        • Feed is the most expensive production cost. For market swine, prices average around $15 to $16 per 50 lbs. bag of show feed. You will need to feed 600 to 800 lbs. of feed depending on how well your pig grows and the final desired weight. Doing the math (Total Feed ÷ 50 lbs. per bag = # bags x $15 per bag = Final Cost)  around $175 to $250 in feed.
        • There are also feed supplements that can also be included. How beneficial the supplement is, and how much cost it will add is widely variable. I would suggest you visit with the breeder of the pigs to find out which supplements if any they recommend
                  Breeding Swine
        • There are different and additional costs if you decide to do a breeding swine project. They can include:  extended feeding costs, breeding costs, farrowing costs and marketing costs.
        • If the gilt was shown, then her costs are the same as the market swine above. Once the last show is over, feed costs will include feeding the gilt for additional time. This includes 21 to 45 days for breeding, 115 days of gestation and 30 to 45 days of nursing. This could mean feeding 181 to 205 days before the first litter is weaned. As a bred gilt, she will begin needing at least 5 lbs. of feed per day and may need up to 16 lbs. of feed per day as a sow nursing a litter. This could mean over another 1300 lbs. of feed. The good thing, sow feed is much cheaper, around $8 per 50 lbs. which equals another $200 or more in feed.
        • Feed is also made available to the litter to help wean them off the sow's milk. This could be another 50 to 100 lbs. of feed, costing $20 to $50 depending on the type and quality of feed. The feeding will continue until the baby pigs are sold.
        • Breeding costs can vary widely depending on the sire (boar) you choose to breed to. Most gilts are bred by artificial insemination (AI). Ordering a dose of semen  can range from $100 to $300 per breeding. If it takes more than one time to get her bred, it can get expensive quick.
        • Most gilts will be raised for show, then bred and farrowed. On average, this will take a calendar year to complete. The following years will include 2 breeding cycles per year, meaning $400 to $500 in feed plus breeding cost of $200 to $600.
        • Some costs can be recovered and possibly a profit made by selling baby pigs. If a breeding produced show quality pigs to sell, a good income can be made. The amount of income depends on how many and how high quality the pigs are.
        Time Frame
        • A market swine project may only last 5 to 6 months. Pigs grow quickly. They are purchased a little after weaning around 4 to 6 weeks old. They can reach market weight of 230 to 280 pounds by the time they are 6 months old. Market swine are then sold once they have reached market weight.
        • Breeding swine can live several years and produce multiple litters. Most breeding swine projects will include two litters produced each year averaging 8 to 12 pigs per litter. A sow who produces two litters per year for 4 years may have produced 90 or more offspring. Once a sow is done producing litters, she too can be sold.
        End of the Project
        • A project can be sold to a private buyer, a commercial buyer or kept for home consumption of the meat. Many county and state fairs will hold a sale to allow youth to sell their projects. Some have a commercial buyer available for them to sell their pigs to after the shows are over. If the decision is to use the meat for home consumption, the youth and their parents will be responsible for delivering the pig to a processor, the cost of processing and picking up the meat after processing is complete.
        • No matter who buys the swine project, they are all eventually destined to be processed for pork. Market swine will be processed and used for fresh cuts such as pork chops, roasts, shoulders, bacon and hams. Breeding stock is mostly processed into ground pork products like sausage.

        Advantages and Disadvantages
        • The length of time for a swine project is short, 4 to 6 months for a market animal.
        • Swine can be shown by exhibitors of any size or age.
        • There does not need to be a lot of tack involved or needed for raising swine.
        • Show swine projects are not always money makers. The difference between the cost of buying and feeding a show pig versus the market price received for the pig can be quiet noticeable. A good junior livestock sale is the best way to recover the investment. Selling show quality baby pigs can help to make a breeding project profitable.

        Additional Resources

        Here are some additional resources to help you in your decision making about a swine project:

        Feed Budgets, Iowa State University

        How to Raise and Show Pigs, Texas AgriLife Extension Service



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




        Thursday, September 28, 2017

        Starting Over - Preparing for New Project Animals

             It is officially fall and this means many state fairs have just finished, are in progress, or will be held in the near future. As exciting, exhausting and fun as state fair can be, the most exciting part may be the thought of new livestock projects arriving soon after the state fair is over. This also means it is time to prepare for those new projects.

             The most important things to do before new project animals arrive is clean. I mean clean everything from pens to tack. The germs from last year's animals are not the first thing your new animals need to be introduced to.

             Clean out and sanitize pens. Make sure all old manure, feed, and bedding is removed. If you have the space, compost it for your own use in gardens and flowerbeds, or allow someone else to come pick it up for compost. If you have animals on solid surfaces, like pigs on concrete, wash and rinse off all the surfaces with soap and water. You can go the extra step and sanitize the pens. While soap and water do take care of a lot of germs, sanitizers get more of them. You can use cleaners like bleach, Lysol® or chlorhexidine diacetate on most solid surface like concrete, wood and metal, but be careful as these products may discolor surfaces or rust metal. They can also be harmful to people and animals, so follow the label directions and wear the suggested safety gear. For sand, and dirt pens, other cleaning agents can be used. Lime, in the form of quicklime or hydrated lime, can be used to sanitize ground by raising the pH level high enough germs cannot live. After pens are all cleaned and sanitized, do not go in them until you are ready to put you new animals in their pen.

             Next to clean are all the feeders and waterers your livestock use. If they are part of the pen, they should have been cleaned with the pen. Most are not permanent parts of the pen and can be removed and cleaned. These items can be cleaned the with soap and water as well. Hot soapy water is the best to clean with, but most of us do not have hot water in the barn. Get a bucket full of hot water from the house to take to the pens and use. If feeders and waterers are small enough, like poultry and small animal feeders, run them through the dish washer (but ask your parents first before you do). Should you also use a sanitizer on these items, make sure to follow the directions to remove any residue that may make you new animals sick.

             I encourage youth to take the time to clean things we do not think about cleaning, tack. Tack can harbor some germs, but more importantly, it has been used and needs a good cleaning to start the next project year. Wipe down and condition all those leather halters and leads. Wash the nylon halters and leads, combs, brushes and show sticks. Clean clippers and blades. Get the hair and dust out of the inside and out of the screens. Wipe down the outside of the clippers and lubricate moving parts. Clean off clipper blades and if they need to be sharpened, send them off now. Nothing is more frustrating than having dull blades when it is time to clip. Similarly, clean blowers as well. Get the dirt out of them and their screens and wipe down the outside of the blower. It is also important to check the plugs and cords on all electric equipment to make sure it is in good condition and is not a shock hazard.

             I like to take the time before new animals arrive to repair, re-design and make improvements to livestock pens. The most important goal is to make sure pens are safe and secure. Drive in loose nails, trim wires, repair broken panels and fences, paint rusty surfaces and make sure nothing will scratch, cut or poke you animal or you. After a year of raising livestock in the pen, is there a better way to set it up? A minor re-design or rearrangement of things can make it easier and safer for you and your animals. Improving the pens is never a bad idea. Not many people will say their livestock pens and equipment are perfect. It may be as simple as painting a wood surface to protect it from rotting or a big project like installing new lights, fans, insulation in the walls, or an automatic water system. The goal of an improvement is to make conditions better for your animals and for you as well.

            I hope your livestock projects went well last year and your new ones will bring you new experiences and fun. Get those pens in tip top shape to give the new animals the best home you can.


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

        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