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, December 30, 2016

A New Year's Resolutions for Youth and Adults - Mentoring

     As we near New Year's Eve, people often ask us about our New Year's Resolution. For youth and adults, choosing a resolution to stick with can be difficult.
     "I will get homework done before dinner."
     "I will clean my room every day."
     "I will practice more and be better at basketball."
"I will learn to use social media."
"I will spend more time with my kids."
"I will eat better and cook more meals at home."

     But what if the resolution will help you improve and someone else as well? I would encourage youth and adults both to look at mentoring. Why? Simply put, mentoring provides benefit to all involved.

     A mentor is someone with experience who advises someone else. Adults mentoring youth is what most of us think of. Coaches, 4-H leaders, scoutmasters, FFA advisors, teachers, counselors or any adult who helps youth to learn about something they are interested in are mentors. Mentors create trusting relationships with youth, help them in their learning and in return receive the satisfaction of knowing you made a positive impact in some else's life.

     Youth can also serve as mentors. Peers helping peers is not a new concept, but we forget that having one youth help another is by definition mentoring. Youth need to understand they can have that positive impact on other youth and they can be mentors. I am always impressed by those youth who make that extra effort to help another by showing or teaching them what they need to know.

     With livestock projects, youth mentoring brings out those qualities we hope all youth will have as adults. Compassionate, positive people willing to share and be a team player are just a few things one can say about a youth mentor.

     Let us not forget the overlooked relationship of a youth mentoring an adult. Ever seen those great human interest stories on the news where the kid has the great idea and the parents go along with it, watching it grow and get better every day? Sometimes as adults we forget this relationship can exist. I have learned in my career as an agricultural educator to listen to the kids and they can teach you something.

    How do we encourage youth to mentor adults? Simple, ask them for help. Kids love to be the smart one and show you what they know. If you haven't done something before and they have, let them show you. Youth have an amazing amount of knowledge they are willing to share, and to share it with an adult is even better.

   So youth and adults, be a mentor. Help someone else learn something you know. As Will Rogers said, "Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects."

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

Friday, December 23, 2016

Here Comes Baby! (Babies!)

     Right after the first of year, there are many livestock species that will be giving birth to those future show projects. If your project includes some new arrivals in the near future, here are some general tips to keep in mind.
Make Contact

     Before your new babies arrive, contact your veterinarian. Establishing a relationship with your veterinarian before parturition (the term for the act of giving birth) will be beneficial to you, your animals and the vet. The vet may need to order vaccines or other medications to have them ready for your newborns when they arrive. They may also have some helpful tips for you about parturition and newborn care. 
     The vet may want some information as well about your animals to prepare for any emergency call you may make. How to contact you, the location of animals, predicted due date, age of the females and other information will help them be prepared for an emergency call.

Make a Plan

     Now is the time to think about the birthing process and newborn care. If this is your first time with animals giving birth, contact someone with experience and ask them to help you make a plan. If you have experience with birthing animals, it is time to gather supplies and review your plan for the arrival of newborns. A few things to consider:

  • Find a quiet place for females to give birth, away from possible distractions or stress.
    • Other animals can cause stress. Locate away from other animals if you have any.
    • Make it secure. Prevent any predators or stray cats and dogs from entering.
    • Do not invite a group of people to view the birthing process. It creates stress.
  • Set up the pen, stall, barn or pasture where you plan for the females to give birth and newborns to live.
    • Inspect for any hazards like sharp points, broke parts or other problems.
  • The location needs to be cleaned, sanitized, and kept clean.

  • Gather Supplies (here are some examples)
    • Cleaning supplies - manure forks, shovels, brooms, disinfectants and soap
    • Vet supplies - clean towels and rags, disposable gloves, iodine, antiseptics, emergency kit and tools
    • Bedding - straw, shavings or rubber mats depending on specie
    • Feed and feeding supplies - feed for females, feed  pans, colostrum or colostrum replacer
    • Watering supplies - water buckets, water bottles for newborns
  • Supplies should be located where they will be easy to find, close to the birthing location.
  • Make a schedule of who will be watching for signs of parturition, caring for females and newborns.
    • Large livestock can be checked every 2-12 hours depending on how close they are to their due date.
    • If signs of parturition are present, hourly checks may be best.
    • Newborns should be checked twice a day unless they are out on pasture.
  • Emergency contacts list
    • Veterinarian clinic and emergency phone numbers
    • You and other family members emergency contact phone numbers
  • Be quiet and calm
    • Loud noises, and excess movement can stress the females you are checking.

Additional Resources

Here are some other resources for you to review to get ready for those new arrivals:

     Care of Pigs From Farrowing to Weaning – University of Missouri Extension
     Newborn Lamb Management – Virginia Cooperative Extension
     Preparing for Calving – University of Nebraska Lincoln
     Foaling Mare & Newborn: Preparing for a Safe & Successful Foal Delivery -
                                                         American Association of Equine Practitioners

I hope everything goes well, and you get some sleep.

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

Friday, December 16, 2016

Heat Lamps - Help or Hazard?

     In the cold of winter, we feel the need to keep animals comfortable by providing some type of warm location for them. Many youth livestock projects are limited in number and instead of building an expensive insulated barn, heat lamps are used to provide a heat source for animals. But are heat lamps a helpful tool or a hazard we put in our livestock shelters?

Helpful Tool

     A heat lamp can be a simple, inexpensive way to provide heat to animals during extreme cold. Hanging or clamp mounting heat lamps with a bulb can start as low as $15. Heat lamps can easily warm the area they are aimed at to comfortable temperatures above 70 degrees.

     Proper installation is important. Heat lamp mounting should:
  1. Be high enough animals cannot reach the lamp
  2. Be secured with a small chain or cable and not hung by the cord
  3. Be plugged in directly to a grounded outlet
  4. Be fully fitted with all protective guards and shields
  5. Be located away from moisture or bedding
  6. Be tested to see the temperature they produce at animal level is not to hot

    A heat lamp can cause some problems that pose a hazard in the barn or shed:
  1. Heat lamps can produce enough heat to possibly burn the skin of an animal, such as a piglet sleeping under one.
  2. The heat produced can dry out bedding like shavings and straw, making it more flammable.
  3. Bulbs can shatter unexpectedly because of moisture or dust on the bulb, leaving broken glass on the floor of the barn or pen.
  4. Hot broken glass can be hot enough to ignite bedding like shavings and straw, causing a fire.
     There are some heat lamps that claim to be safer and better than the more inexpensive ones. They are fully enclosed to prevent shattered glass from escaping, and use a more sturdy heat lamp bulb than the $15 ones.


     The alternatives to heat lamps to keep animals warm vary:
  • Warming pads can be used to give newborn animals a warm place to lay. The pads should not be used with bedding in case they would overheat, possibly causing a fire. 
  • Blankets and body socks are available for newborn kids, lambs, up to large horses to help keep them warm.
  • Extra bedding like straw will allow animals to have more insulation between them and the cold ground. Pigs will burrow into deep straw to keep warm.
  • Keeping animals together will allow them to use their combined body heat to stay warm. Notice how newborn pigs, kids and lambs will lay on each other to stay warm.
     When it comes to using heat lamps, the choice is up to the individual animal owner. Heat lamps are used by many animal producers each year without a problem. They should be used properly and be monitored while in use. If they seem to be a hazard to you, alternatives are available to keep your livestock projects warm during those extremely cold days.

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

Friday, December 9, 2016

Veterinary Feed Directive

     On January 1, 2017, a new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule will take affect concerning medication in livestock feed and water. Antibiotics deemed medically important for human use will no longer be available "over the counter" (OTC) to be added to livestock feed or water without a VFD. To receive a VFD, you must have an established VCPR with a veterinarian.

What is a VFD?

     VFD stands for Veterinary Feed Directive. It means a medication can only be put into an animal's feed or water under the order of your veterinarian. This will also include supplements.

     Only the animal(s) listed on the VFD can be given the medication(s) on the VFD. The medication can only be given for the amount of time listed on the VFD as well.

     Records of VFD treatments will need to be kept for two years by the vet and the youth who owns the animals.

What is a VCPR?

     VCPR stands for Veterinarian Client Patient Relationship and indicates you have a current relationship with your vet, and he or she knows you and your animals.

What medications will be affected?

     Antibiotics considered medically important for human use will not be available over the counter without a VFD. Click to see the LIST of VFD medications.

How will this affect youth?

     Currently, some pre-mixed bagged feeds, bulk feeds and supplements contain antibiotics which will be on the federal VFD list. These antibiotics will be removed from them and can only be purchased mixed in with a VFD. Any feed or supplement that does contain an antibiotic on the VFD list will be labeled "Medicated" and include a warning they require a VFD.  Antibiotics on the VFD list that can be added to water will also be unavailable without a VFD.

     Youth should check with their feed dealer to see if they will carry or can get feed and supplements containing an antibiotic on the VFD list. The feed dealer will most likely have some paperwork the youth will need to complete. Youth will also need to give the feed dealer an original copy of their VFD.

     Injectable forms of those antibiotics will still be available. Other medications and antibiotics not on the VFD list such as ionophores and coccidiostats will still be available to mix into feed and water without a VFD.

What will youth need to remember?

     1. Make sure they have a VCPR with their vet
     2. Obtain a VFD to treat sick animal(s)
     3. Work with their vet or feed dealer to get the medication on the VFD
     4. Make sure the medication is fed as instructed on the VFD
     5. Keep records of the VFD and the animal(s) treated for at least two (2) years

For More Information
     Watch the informational VIDEO from the FDA
     Youth Swine Exhibitors Guide to New Antibiotic Rules from Pork Checkoff
     VFD Youth page from Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

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

Friday, December 2, 2016


     December tends to mean the first long cold spell of the winter. For some places this may mean continuous periods of below freezing temperatures, snow and ice until spring returns. Livestock projects need some added attention during these periods to ensure they are receiving proper care to deal with the winter environment.


     The environment we provide livestock projects in winter has plenty of similarities and differences depending on which animals we are caring for. Two main things to think about for all animals is providing a shelter that blocks the wind and is dry.

     That "takes my breath" feeling you get from a cold winter wind is also felt by livestock. The harder the wind blows, the colder it feels. Temperature and wind speed are used to calculate the windchill. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines windchill as the cooling effect of wind on exposed skin.

     Cattle, horses and sheep have much less exposed skin since they are covered with hair and wool, and can handle cold and lower windchills. Pigs, goats and poultry do not have the amounts of protective hair or feathers needed to deal with extreme cold. These animals need extra shelter from the wind to maintain their warmth such as a hut, shed or barn to go into during extreme cold.

     All animals benefit from a dry shelter as well. Huts, sheds and barns should have dry bedding such as shavings or straw. Outside shelters, like wind breaks, should also have a dry area and allow any rain or melting snow and ice to drain quickly.

Food and Water

     Food and water is necessary everyday, but is very important during cold. Food provides energy for animals to produce their own body heat to stay warm. Feeds should be high in energy sources to help animals maintain their own body temperature. Livestock may even need extra feed to be able to stay warm and continue to grow or produce milk and eggs during extreme cold.

     Water is important for helping livestock to maintain body temperature and digest the feed they eat. Water turns to ice at 32 degrees. Making it available is important. There are several ways to do this.

     Trading water buckets twice a day is an easy way to provide fresh water to animals. Start with an empty bucket and fill with water in the morning. It takes some time for a full bucket with 3 to 5 gallons of water to freeze, giving animals time to take a good drink. Then in the evening, trade the now icy or frozen water bucket for a new one with fresh water. Put the frozen bucket some place it can thaw and drain. A bathtub is a good choice.

     Electric bucket and tank heaters can also be used to keep drinking water from freezing. These heaters work well, but must be checked to make sure they are not producing a shock. If an animal ever gets shocked drinking from a bucket or tank, it may never trust the water from there again. Inspect all electric bucket and tank heaters before using them.

     Ponds and outdoor water sources like large stock tanks are hard to keep from freezing over. A shovel and some other tool to break the ice to get to the water is usually your only option. If the water is too frozen to even break open, provide water in a smaller tank or buckets until the weather warms up.

Other Things to Consider

     Some animals are showing during the winter months and grooming may include removal of hair or wool. Blanketing animals is vital since the natural amount of hair or wool they would have during winter is gone. Make sure the blanket is warm enough and fits the animal properly. Also be on the look out for things that may snag, cut or hang up on the blankets. Not only will this damage the blankets, but may cause an animal to panic and hurt themselves if they feel stuck or trapped in the blanket.

    Keep bedding clean as well as dry. Dry bedding is a great way to keep animals warm, but can also absorb urine and hide manure. If you are going to use beddings like shavings and straw, change it out regularly to keep it a clean place for your animals.

    Fresh air is important when animals are brought into barns and sheds during extreme cold. Closing all the doors and windows may help keep it warm, but does not allow for fresh air to replace stale air. If you go into a barn and your nose or eyes are burning a little, then fresh air is needed. If your barn has a vent fan, turn it on and crack a window or door to allow the flow of fresh air during the warm part of the day. Otherwise open the door for a short time while you feed, water and do chores to allow fresh air in.

    I hope these suggestions will help you and your livestock get through the winter in good condition. Remember there are positives to all the seasons. At least the flies are gone!

Stay warm.

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