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, October 5, 2018

I Mean Clean

    When the last year's animal projects have left the barn, we usually take some time to clean up. But what does it mean to clean? For some people, clean is removing the trash, removing old bedding, throwing away old feed and sweeping up. Other folks empty the barn out, fire up a power washer and blast every nook and cranny the barn has. The question is still the same. What is clean, I mean truly clean?

     I have my way of cleaning around the barn, but this question got me to thinking and doing a little research. I found this source, CLEANING AND DISINFECTION by the National Animal Health Emergency Management System (NAHEMS). These are the USDA people who respond to major animal disease outbreaks. They are the experts in what is clean. 

     Reading through it, there is a lot of technical stuff and if you followed it, you would probably have the cleanest and most sanitary facilities in your county and maybe your state. But for our purposes, let me give you a simplified version of what it means to clean a livestock facility.

     NAHEMS breaks clean up into two parts, Cleaning and Disinfection. They then break Cleaning and Disinfection into three smaller parts. Let's look at each area.


     Cleaning is the removal of material items from a livestock facility. The first part is called Dry Cleaning.
"Dry cleaning involves the removal of any gross contamination and organic material (e.g., soil, manure, bedding, feed) from production areas or equipment".
     This is the hard work part of cleaning. Hauling out all the manure, old bedding, shavings, feed, hay, trash and finally excess dirt using shovels, rakes, wheel barrows and brooms. Remember, most of this could be put into a compost pile, but make sure the trash goes to the landfill where it belongs.

      After Dry Cleaning is Washing. This is the wet work. Get you rubber boots, scrub brush, bucket and hose for this part. Find your favorite detergent (soap) and make some suds. Washing is meant to remove the stuff you didn't or couldn't get during the dry cleaning by
"...removing any oil, grease, or exudates that may inhibit the action of disinfection".
     Why do we wash before we disinfect? The things washing removes allows the disinfectants to do their job better. 
     Once everything has be given a good soapy scrub, its needs to be rinsed and dried. Rinsing should remove all the detergent or soap and the final few pieces of stuck on manure, dirt, bedding and other organic matter. And now we can get to the easiest part, Drying. Just gather up all your cleaning supplies and let everything air dry.
"Whenever possible, surfaces should be allowed to dry completely (if possible overnight) before application of a disinfectant".
     You read that right, take a break until tomorrow. Go get your wet clothes changed, make some popcorn, watch a movie with friends and relax until tomorrow!

      When everything is dry, it is time to disinfect. Now depending on what you decide to disinfect with this may be a job for the adults. Consult your veterinarian, the one you have the VCPR (veterinary client patient relationship) with. Ask them what they recommend as a disinfectant. Different disinfectants work better for different species of livestock, facility types and on different micro-organisms (the things that causes diseases).
     Disinfectants need what is called Contact Time. This is the amount of time needed for the disinfectant to do its job and kill those nasty micro-organisms that can make your animals sick. The disinfectant should say on it packaging what the necessary contact time is.

     Once Contact Time has passed, get the rubber boots out again because its time to rinse again. Make sure all the disinfectant is completely rinsed off. When you feel it is all gone, time to let it dry again.

Why Do This?

     This is a lot of work and may be one of those weekend projects if your barns and facilities are big. But this process can be applied to smaller projects as well. Think about all your tack and equipment. Does it need to be cleaned and disinfected? Cleaning and disinfecting tack and equipment can help prevent the spread of a contagious micro-organism from animal to animal.

    Why would someone go to all this work? Have you ever had to deal with a contagious disease or infection with your animals? Think about ringworm, wool fungus, coccidiosis, scours or worse problems. All are contagious but good sanitation can help to control the spread. 

     I hope you keep clean facilities for your livestock and you take time to clean them thoroughly between each new set of animal you bring in. A little extra time and effort now could prevent a lot of trouble in the future.

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

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Most Important Piece of Equipment

    In livestock production, there are several tools that are used to raise and produce animals. There are water hoses, clippers, blow dryers, chutes, stands, halters, combs, brushes and many other pieces of tack and equipment.

     Of all the pieces of equipment, the ones that should be used and paid the most attention are the humble scales. That's right, the scales can tell us more about how your livestock project is doing than any other piece of equipment. Sure you may think halters, grooming equipment and other pieces of tack can make a big difference in your project, but a scale never lies about what is going on with your project.

     There are two scales every livestock project should have available: scales for livestock and scales for feed. I am not saying you need to spend a lot of money and everybody needs to own these scales, but you should find a set you can use or borrow. Livestock scales may be a community or group asset. They might be available at your county fairgrounds, sale barn, feed store, 4-H club or FFA Chapter. You do not need to use livestock scales everyday, but once a week, every two weeks or monthly can provide you valuable information about how your animal is gaining (or not).

     Small feed scales will help you track your inputs. You might use these every time you start building your feed ration for a single feeding. I would advise you to use the scales at least every time you make a change in your feed amounts. They are most important when you start mixing feed with additives and supplements. You may build a much larger ration than you thought without scales.

      So why are scales important beyond just giving you a weight for your animal or feed ration? The information from these scales can be used to formulate important data to help in your management of your livestock project. Here are some examples

Ration Amounts

     For most livestock, a proper amount of ration is 3% to 5% of their body weight. If you weigh your pig and her weight is 150 lbs. and you need to feed 3% of her weight per day, then do the math:
 (150 lbs. X 3% ) ➗ 100 = 4.5 lbs. of feed per day
     This means if you feed twice (2) times a day you need to get your feed scales and weigh out 2.25lbs of feed for each ration. This way you will feed her 2.25 lbs. in the morning and 2.25 lbs. in the evening for a total of 4.5 lbs. per day.

Rate of Gain

     A rate of gain is the daily average of weight gained by your animal over a period of time. This can vary as an animal grows. At steer nominations for your county fair, your steer weighs 850 lbs. You want your steer to weigh 1375 lbs. at the fair in 150 days. What is your desired rate of gain? Let's do the math:

(Desired weight 1375 lbs. - Starting weight, 850 lbs.)  ➗ 150 days = 3.5 lbs. per day

      Now you know your desired rate of gain, you could weigh your steer every 30 days to see how they are doing.

     Day 30      Weighed 935 lbs.     
 Rate of gain = (935 lbs. - 850 lbs.) ➗ 30 days = 2.8 lbs. per day
     Day 60      Weighed 1023 lbs.    
Rate of gain = (1023 lbs. - 935 lbs.) ➗ 30 days = 2.9 lbs. per day
     Day 90      Weighed 1128 lbs.    
Rate of gain = (1128 lbs. - 1023 lbs.) ➗ 30 days = 3.5 lbs. per day
     Day 120    Weighed 1242 lbs.    
Rate of gain = (1242 lbs. - 1128 lbs.) ➗ 30 days = 3.8 lbs. per day
     Day 150    Weighed 1370 lbs.    
Rate of gain = (1370 lbs. - 1242 lbs.) ➗ 30 days = 4.3 lbs. per day

     Total Rate of Gain (1370 lbs. - 850 lbs.) ➗ 150 days = 3.46 lbs. per day

Administering Medication

     Your sheep is sick and the vet gives you medication. You should give it at a rate of 2cc per 50lbs. of body weight each day for 5 days. How much should you be giving? Do the math.

(Sheep weighed 150 lbs. ➗ 50 lbs.) X 2cc of medication = 6cc of medication per day

     Knowing weights is an important part of the proper management of a livestock project. With the weights you can formulate other data. Without using scales, all you can do is guess and wait to be surprised at the end result.

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

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Big Show

     The county fair sometimes seems like old habit. Many youth are the second or third generation showing at the county fair. The first time going is easy with surrounded by parents, friends and neighbors. Going to the state fair for the first time can be a little overwhelming.

     First bit of advice is read the state fair rules and regulations. Nothing is worse than getting there and finding out that an animal is disqualified from showing due to a technicality. It may be the animal's age, lack of proper tags or I.D., proof of ownership, or proper veterinary papers. It is disheartening to say the least to have hauled for hours, made hotel reservations, and get told to "pack it up" and head home.

    Next bit of advice is ask questions of those who have gone before. Find out: What tack, bedding or feed to take; Where to park the truck and the trailer; Which roads to take: Which gates to enter; and Where is the best place to stay and eat.

    Once you have a handle on the regulations and got some good practical advice, its time to work on the mental game. Work on your showmanship, remembering what the judge said about you at the county fair. Get some rest. School starts, fall sports begin and the state fair all happen at the same time. If you are exhausted at the fair, it will show in the ring (and maybe on social media when you are caught napping with your animal!) And prepare yourself for tougher competition. Your champion animal at the county fair is going against the other county champions. Only one can be the state fair champion and it is based on one judge's opinion. Be mentally prepared to be a gracious winner and also a good sport if things do not go the way you want.

     Remember the state fair is another opportunity to learn, exhibitor your animal, show your skills and meet new people. Take advantage of everything the fair offers.

This is a pretty short post, but I gotta go. I am headed to the State Fair too!

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

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