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, June 26, 2019

Pushing and Holding

     We are 30 days away from our county fair and a few exhibitors are getting nervous. They have checked the weights on their animals and found they are not on target for the desired weight at the fair. Some may be too light and some will be possibly too big. So the questions come in about pushing and holding animals so they can make weight.

     I go through a few questions with them to see how best to address their animal's weight problem:
  • How much do they weigh now?
  • What do you want them to weigh at fair?
  • What are you feeding?
  • How much are you feeding?
     After getting these questions answered, I look for problems. First, knowing the weight helps to formulate what rate of gain they need. For instance, if they have a 200 lbs. market swine and want it to weigh 260 lbs. at the fair we can calculate rate of gain.
  • Subtract current weight from desired weight to find the total desired gain
    • 260 lbs. - 200 lbs. = 60 lbs. of desired gain
  • Then divide the desired gain by the number of days before fair to find the desired average daily gain
    • 60 lbs. / 30 days = 2 lbs. per day desired daily gain
  • Now compare this to the average daily gain for the species
    • Older market swine can on average gain between 2 lbs. to 3 lbs. per day so the desired daily gain should be good.
     Now the questions about feeding come into play. What are you feeding? At this point in time, market animals should be on a finishing or fattening ration. Finishing rations put weight on an animal as fat. These ration have less nutrients like proteins for muscle and skeletal growth, and more energy and fats for putting on finish or fat that is important to the quality of meat the animal will yield when harvested. If the animals are still on a growing ration, they will not deposit the fat they need and continue to gain more muscle weight than fat.

     The second part is how much are you feeding? Most bagged feeds have feeding instructions based on the animal's weight. If the swine finisher feed says to feed 4% of the animal's body weight daily then we can calculate how much they need.
  • Multiply the current weight by the amount the instructions say to feed
    • Current weight is 200 lbs. x 4% per day = 200 lbs. x .04 per day = 8 lbs. per day
  • Feed must be adjusted to equal the increase in weight. If we expect the pig to gain 2 lbs. per day, the next week the pig will weight 14 lbs. more  (7 days x 2 lbs. per day = 14 lbs. of gain). We need to recalculate the feed at least once per week.
    • 214 lbs. x .04 per day = 8.5 lbs. per day
    • 228 lbs. x .04 per day = 9.1 lbs. per day
    • 242 lbs. x .04 per day = 9.7 lbs. per day
    • 256 lbs. x .04 per day = 10.2 lbs. per day
  • Adjusting the feed weekly should help maintain the appropriate average daily gain.
     This example would be for the perfect scenario. The animal was on target, and everything calculated out to be on target for the 260 lbs. desired weight for the fair 30 days down the road. But what if you are on the light weight side. You want to "push" your animal to make weight.

     Pushing usually means trying to make and animal gain a maximum amount of weight possible. There is still a limit to the amount of weight they can gain in a certain amount of time. In my experience, animals at this stage of development and growth can have some great rates of gain. I have seen sheep and goats gain 1 pound per day, pigs up to 2 pounds per day and cattle up to 4 pounds per day. Now there are exceptions and some animals can really grow in a short time, but let's not get our hopes too high and stay more realistic.

     Using a market steer as an example. His current weight is 975 lbs. and the minimum weight for your fair is 1100 lbs. There are 30 days until fair and he needs to gain 125 lbs. His daily gain needs to be approximately 4.2 lbs. per day (125 lbs. / 30 days = 4.16 lbs. per day). Is it possible?

     To push an animal to maximum weight gain, their basic nutritional needs must be met and extra nutrition must be available. Why? Extra nutrition, especially energy from fats and carbohydrates in grains and by-products, will be stored and deposited as fat. If the feed bag instructions say to give them 3% of their body weight per day, you might bump it up to 3.5% per day. If the steer can eat the extra feed and it provides more than their daily nutritional needs then they can gain the maximum per day. Now do not go crazy. If they were eating 30 lbs. per day do not jump to a full 50 lbs. bag per day or else you are asking for trouble. Bump his feed to 35 lbs. and see how that helps with weight gain.

Ruminants (cattle, sheep and goats) cannot handle large sudden changes in feeding. If you increase their feed, do it slowly and observe them multiple times per day to make sure they do not bloat, scour or have other digestive problems. 
     Holding is the reverse of pushing. You are trying to minimize weight gain. Say you have a 155 lbs. market lamb and the maximum weight for your fair is 165 lbs. At this time you are under weight, but if they gain the average of 1/2 lbs. per day, they will be over weight (1/2 lbs. per day x 30 days = 15 lbs. of weight gain, 155 lbs. + 15 lbs. = 170 lbs.). You want to put this lamb on a maintenance diet. Meaning you want to feed them enough to meet their nutritional needs but not to gain extra weight. If the feed instructions say 3% body weight per day, you might cut back to 2.5% or as low as 2% body weight per day to slow the rate of gain. But do not stop or skip a feeding to try and reduce weight gain. Weigh your animals every week, calculate the rate of gain and find out if they are gaining less than the average and are on target for the weight you want them to be at.
     When holding animals, be careful not to reduce the feed to the point they start losing weight or muscle mass. If you understand and feel comfortable using a supplement to maintain weight and body mass you might do so. It is better for them to slowly gain a little weight than to make them lose weight and try to push them to gain some back right before a show.
     The biggest thing on pushing or holding is not to go to extremes. They cannot grow any faster than their genetic potential and they will not do well if you put them on a crash diet to try and minimize weight gain. If you are concerned, ask a family who does well with their animals for help. Ask the breeder you bought your animal from. Ask your Extension Agent or your FFA advisor. There are plenty of people willing to help if you just ask.

Here are some additional resources:
Feeding the Lamb Crop - Purdue University
Niche Pork Production - Iowa State University
Basic Show Steer Feeding and Care - Utah State University Extension

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

Friday, June 14, 2019

Scrapie Tags

     Scrapie Identification Tags are part of the National Scapie Eradication Program. These tags are used to track and home in on a location of a flock of origin if Scrapie is found in any sheep or goats. The tags are connected to a Premise Identification or an address of the person who the tags are issued the tags.

     The tags are considered a permanent ID and should not be removed. If a sheep or goat loses its Scrapie tag, a replacement tag can be put in. Records of the animal an its tag numbers must be kept for at least 5 years. If a tag is lost and replaced, a record of the old and new tag needs to be in those records.

     Animals that must have a Scrapie tag include all "sexually intact" animals. This means ewes, does, rams and bucks. Wethers (sheep or goat) under the age of 18 months are not required to have one since they have been castrated. Once they have reached 18 months of age or older, they are then required to have a Scrapie tag. There are a few exceptions such as registered goats with permanent identification tattoos may not need Scrapie tags.

     Youth sheep and goat projects are also subject to the Scrapie identification rules. As a youth you are either buying your animal from a breeder or sale, or you are raising your own. Youth who buy their project animals need to be mindful and make sure Scrapie tags are in any ewes or doe they take home. This tag number should then be recorded in their 4-H or FFA record book. If you get home and notice the animal doesn't have a tag, contact the sale or breeder and request they send you one to put in.

     Youth who are breeding their own sheep and goats should also be using Scrapie tags. The first step is to contact your state veterinary office and request the Scrapie tags. Youth will be assigned a flock number and tags will be sent to be put in your animals. All "sexually intact" animals (ewes, does, rams and bucks) will need to have tags. Wethers under 18 months of age do not, need tags, but if an old wether is hanging around and he is over 18 months, he will need a Scrapie tag. Youth need to make sure any ewe lambs and doe kids they sell or are taking to a show have their Scrapie tags in.

     Scrapies eradication is a national effort. I hope this explanation is simple enough to help youth understand what and why they need to have Scrapie tags. Youth need to be mindful of their responsibilities in this effort. If you have any questions, contact your state veterinarian office.

     Here are some resources on Scrapies:

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Green Water?!

Many youth have problems with large animal stock tanks becoming homes for algae. Fellow Extension Agent, Michael Fisher has some great suggestions to help with this warm weather problem.

Stock Tank Algae Control

About this time of year I begin getting calls regarding how to control algae growth in stock tanks. Algae growth is a fact of summer for livestock water tanks in Eastern Colorado. Before talking about controlling it, let’s talk about trying to limit some of the algae growth.

There are some basic essentials that algae require to grow in a stock tank. The most obvious is water and we can’t do much about that. Next, warm temperatures and sunlight dramatically promote algae growth. Some producers will build shade over their stock tanks to help with this issue. However, that creates an added expense and may cause problems with livestock trying to utilize that shade on hot days. Finally, algae needs some form of nutrients to sustain itself. This can come from livestock slobbers, animals urinating or defecating in a tank, and debris being blown into the tank. Part of this is unpreventable, but fencing or rails can be utilized to prevent livestock from entering a stock tank and introducing nutrients. If using rails, make certain they are positioned low enough that a cow can’t slip underneath the rail.

Once you have an algae problem in your stock tank, there are some treatment methods that you can utilize. There are numerous commercial products on the market. However, a generic approach to chemical treatment is often times cheaper. (Remember that chemical treatments may change the taste of the water for a period of time. Also, these need to be mixed thoroughly within the tank for a few minutes before livestock are allowed access. Don’t just dump it in one part of the tank and drive off.)

  • Chlorine Bleach: Sodium hypochlorite (5.25%), which is what many of the standard laundry bleaches (only use unscented) are made of, can be effective. You will need to add 2 to 3 ounces of the 5.25% sodium hypochlorite for each 100 gallons of tank capacity. Be sure to mix the tank water well after adding the bleach. This should be repeatedly weekly. When temperatures are abnormally hot and when a lot of organic material exists in the tank, the sodium hypochlorite will dissipate more rapidly and may require multiple treatments per week.

  • Copper Sulfate: Copper sulfate is a popular algae control and is found in many of the commercial products. It will often come in a crystal form and needs to be dissolved in warm to hot water before making the treatment. Typically, 1.5 teaspoons should be dissolved in 4.5 ounces of water for each 1000 gallons of tank capacity that will be treated. This mixture is then poured throughout the tank. Treatment should be repeated in two to four weeks, depending on algae growth. Algae killed using this method should be removed from the tank and hauled out of the grazing area, as it may contain very high copper & sulfur levels. The use of copper sulfate is not recommended when sheep will be consuming the water, as sheep have a low tolerance for copper and this treatment may be toxic to more copper sensitive sheep. Another important note is that copper sulfate can increase the rate of deterioration of metal tanks and pipes.

  • Zinc Sulfate: Zinc sulfate is another chemical treatment. Again, the material needs to be dissolved in warm to hot water before being added to the tank. In the case of zinc sulfate, dissolve one cup in one gallon of water. Then thoroughly mix into the tank ½ cup of the solution for every 100 gallons of tank capacity. Repeat as needed.

  • Biological Control: In these times of consumer concerns over what is in their meat, more and more producers are turning to herbivore consuming aquatic life to maintain reduced algae levels in stock tanks, as opposed to chemical treatments. One of the more common resources is the goldfish. It will take 4 to 6 goldfish for every 100 gallons of tank capacity. Other aquarium species can be more expensive ($3 to $6 each) but still effective. Some of these are the Black Mollies, Otocinclus Catfish, and my personal favorite the plecostomus. Some varieties of plecos, like the Trinidad Pleco, can grow to near a foot in length and spend a surprising amount of their time foraging. While these biological control techniques do offer a good marketing statement for those selling in all natural programs, they still create issues. First, you are trading algae for fish feces in your tank. Secondly, fishing predators (raccoons, cats, birds, etc.) may become attracted to your stock tank & treatment technique. Thirdly, if you are changing pastures throughout the grazing season you will need to move the fish. Finally, you will need to have a plan for caring for the fish during the winter months.

Michael Fisher
Extension Director
Pueblo County
Colorado State University

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Bath Time!

     Bathing and cleaning is part of the basic care for show animals. It promotes skin and hair health along with working to promote an overall appearance of quality. But it can be a bad thing to.

     All of our livestock could live without bathing in a commercial situation. They were built to live outdoors without the need for baths. Cattle can roll in the dust. Pigs have their mud baths. Lanolin on sheep's wool keeps dirt at bay. For show animals bathing is necessary, especially for proper appearance. There are some dos and don'ts to remember.

  • Bathe animals in a safe location. This includes a good footing for you and the animal to stand on when it is wet. There is enough room for you and your animal. The location drains well.
  • Use appropriate bathing products. Use soaps and shampoos made for livestock to prevent skin irritations. Or use mild general detergents like Dawn® soap (not a product endorsement). If it is safe for use on animals after an oil spill, it is okay for yours.
  • Use the appropriate water pressure. Would you want to be hosed off at full pressure? Turn on enough pressure to wash you animal, but not so much that it is uncomfortable.
  • Be quick about it. Stop texting, spookychat, insta-whatever and put the phone down. Wet, soap up, rinse and dry your animals without taking a break.
  • Remove the caked on stuff. Mud and manure crusty hard on the hair is damaging. Get it off with water, some gentle scrubbing and elbow grease.
  • Dry with clean towels. It is tempting to use, let dry and use again the same towel, but it can create problems. Fungus like ringworm and wool fungus can be on the towel and you may unknowingly spread it all over your animal.
  • Do moisturize. Soap and shampoos remove natural oils from the skin and hair. After washing use a conditioner appropriate for your animal to help replace lost natural oils to keep hair and skin healthy.
  • Do not spray hot animals down with cold water. It causes them to stress by suddenly cooling their body. If an animal is hot and needs a bath, start by spraying their feet and slowly work up legs. Once they do not seem as hot (stopped panting, breathing heavy and feel cooler to the touch) then work up the body.
  • "Not the Face!" Do not spray animals in the face. I prefer to use a wet rag on the face. And be careful using soaps and shampoos around the eyes. It is uncomfortable and can be harmful if it gets in their eyes. If it does, be sure you get the soap out of the eyes.
  • Do not bathe every day. If you have cattle and you are trying to work hair, just rinse if you need to wet them down every day. Soaps and shampoos remove oils on the hair which keep it healthy. If you use soaps and shampoos, you are removing the natural oils and making the hairs dry and brittle. Then it will begin to fall and comb out, defeating the purpose of trying to work hair. With sheep, you are removing the lanolin which protects the wool. I suggest you only wash sheep before a trimming or a show.
  • Don't wash in a dangerous situation. If you do not have a good safe spot to wash, just don't.  There is no reason to put yourself and animal at risk just to be clean.
  • Do not fight with your animals. Some just do not like being bathed. If the wash rack is stressful once, it will be stressful every time for your animal. Make it as pleasant as possible.

     I hope you get those animal washed up and looking good. And one more Don't. Don't forget to take pictures in the wash rack for the record books!

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