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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

What's in My Show Box - Lambs

     Showing lambs seems like it should be pretty simple. They are shown slick sheared and without any kind of tack. The reality is, to be ready to show a lamb, a lot of effort and grooming goes into making them presentable and show ready. There are a few things that are necessary and used every show day.

     Here is my packing list of items to take to the show for one lamb and the reason why I take them.

Halters and Tack
  • 1 Rope Halter - This is the one used everyday to walk and exercise your lamb. I like the ones that have a snap hook on the end so I can quickly hook and unhook them to a fence.
  • Lamb Tubes - These stretchy body tubes help keep a lamb warm since they have been sheared. Pack several to either layer on your sheep if it is cold, or to trade out if the tubes become dirty or snagged and ripped on fencing.
  • Lamb Blanket - A blanket can be used as a warm layer, but the best reason is to keep dust from settling on your clean sheep.
  • Muzzle - If allowed at a show, a muzzle is used to prevent nervous or bored sheep from eating shavings or chewing on wood. Make sure the muzzle will allow them to drink water through the muzzle.
  • Drench Gun - This tool is used to help sheep drink liquid if they are becoming dehydrated. Some shows do not allow them, so check first before you drench a lamb.
  • Feed Pans - Always bring your own feed pan. The ones that clip or hang from the fence are best.
  • Water Bucket - Always bring your own water bucket. A clean water bucket will encourage your sheep to drink at the show.
  • 4 Safety Pins - Some larger shows make exhibitors wear a large paper number on your body so they can more easily keep track of who is showing. Keep safety pins in the showbox just in case you have to where a number.
Washing Supplies
  • 1 Mild Soap - You do not need multiple shampoos, and conditioners at a show. One good mild soap that can remove dirt is all you need. The most convenient ones are the foaming soaps, but they also require a special applicator that goes on the end of a hose.
  • Whitening Shampoo - Most sheep shown are white bodied. A whitening shampoo or soap helps to brighten the white color and makes them appear cleaner than with soap alone.
  • 1 Water Hose - You need a hose that is long enough to go all the way around your lamb. Some shows supply hoses in their wash racks, but not all. The hose can also be used to fill water buckets as well.
  • 1 Spray Nozzle - I like a nozzle I can shut off while you scrub your lamb and the water stream can be adjusted from a gentle shower to rinse with, to a narrow stream for powering dirt off the hooves.
  • Bath Towels - Sheared sheep get cold quickly when being washed. Have several bath towels ready to dry your sheep off quickly. When they feel dry to the touch, cover them with a dry towel as you leave the wash racks to absorb that last bit of moisture and help them retain some body heat.
  • Plastic Brush - Sheep breeds with wool in the legs may require a little scrubbing to get out some caked on dirt and manure. Brushes with large bristles, sometimes called message brushes, allow you to get the caked dirt out without pulling out leg hairs. 
  • Fungus Wash or Treatment - Wool fungus is the most common problem that can be picked up at a show. Use a fungus wash or treatment after the show is over, before you load lambs back in the trailer to take home (also put on clean lamb tubes). This can help prevent taking wool fungus back to your barn.
Grooming and Fitting Supplies
  • Lamb Stand - Lambs are relatively short and a lamb stand lifts them up to a height that is easier for an exhibitor to groom their lamb. Steal or aluminum is up to you and your budget.
  • Hoof Trimmers - Most show sheep live in a environment that is not rocky enough to keep their hooves worn down. Use hoof trimmers to remove excess toe and sidewall of the hoof. Trimming hooves will also prevent the possibility of lameness from setting in due to extra long hooves.
  • Large Clippers - To shear sheep for the show, large "sheep head" clippers do the best and fastest job. Most exhibitors use "surgical" combs and blades with their clippers to remove as much wool as possible.
  • Small Clippers - These can be used for two reason. First to do touch up clipping on the body. Second to clip and trim wool on the legs into a desirable shape that give the appearance of larger cannon bone.
  • Wool Card or Comb - This is used to puff out and tease wool on the legs, making it easier to clip and trim into shape.
  • Hand Shears or Scissors - If you need to clip a little bit of leg wool or hair, and do not want or cannot plug in clippers, these are a quick and quiet way to get it done.
  • Coat Conditioner - When wool is sheared and washed, it loses its natural oil called lanolin. Conditioners put an oily finish back on the sheep's wool and body.
     This is the basic set of supplies I would recommend keeping in a showbox. These supplies and equipment will fit in a showbox that is relatively small. It is okay to take extra supplies and equipment, but these are the things I know will be used at every show.

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

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Importance of Saying Thank You

     This post is not directly helpful to raising an animal, but is more about the importance of being thankful and how to show it. I do not know a youth who has been able to successfully complete all the task and chores of a livestock project without the help of someone else. This help may come from a sibling, parent, adult volunteer, sponsor, extension agent or FFA advisor.

     Simply saying thank you is the easiest way to start showing appreciation. Make sure the person you are thanking knows why you appreciate them. I encourage youth to start with an in person thank you. Look the person in the eye, shake their hand and tell the "Thank you for ...", and thank them for what they did for you. If you know the person well, like a family member or close family friend, a hug might even be appropriate and well received.

     Thank you cards are the next best way to show appreciation. This is a little more formal and takes a little more effort, but for the price of a card, a stamp and a few minutes of your time, a thank you card can go a long way. You might send a thank you card to someone you might not have the opportunity to meet, such as a person or business that sponsored an award at a livestock show or contest. A thank you card would be appropriate to send to someone who has been helpful over a long period of time. I have known of youth who even write thank you cards to their parents for the years of support and encouragement.

     A gift might be appropriate for someone who has gone above and beyond in support of a you. Gifts do not need to be expensive or even store bought. Homemade and handmade gifts are always well appreciated. Think about saying thank you with a card and some homemade cookies or other sweets. A framed picture of the you and your project, or you and the person being thanked helps mark the time spent together and can be a great reminder of the your appreciation of them. Some youth even "retire" or give special items from their livestock projects to show their appreciation. Maybe it is the first halter from the first calf they had shown, an award banner or buckle from a show where the person's help was a great part of the success.

Thank you cards are a simple, yet formal way to let someone
know how much they are appreciated.

    The main point is to make that extra effort to say thank you to someone who has made an extra effort to help you. Learn to shake hands and say thank you. Learn to write a thank you card. These two simple things can become great habits for you to learn and carry over into adult life.

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

What's in My Show Box - Pigs

   It is overwhelming the amount of supplies available to show a pig. Some products have very specific purposes, and some are more trendy than useful. Some items are great to have at home for grooming and working with your pig, but there is no need to load the whole barn to go to a pig show.

     Here is a packing list of items to take to a pig show and the reasons why you should take them.

Feeding and Nutrition
  • Feed - Bring all the feed you are feeding at home. Pre-measure the amounts and bring enough to feed for the duration of the show plus a little extra. This will keep you from bringing full bags and containers of feeds.
  • Supplements - If you supplement at home, supplement at the show. Pigs can be very sensitive to diet changes. Removing a supplement for a show, may cause some problems by being missing in your pigs diet or when you get home and re-introduce it.
  • Feed measuring cup - You need to know how much your pig is eating. Bringing your measuring cup from home will keep you from guessing and accidentally feeding too much or too little.
  • Feeder - Bring your own feeder. Sharing or borrowing a feeder is a bad way to expose your pig to a new illness. Be sure and clean the feeder after you leave the show as well.
  • Waterer - Bringing a water bucket or a tube style waterer is just as important as a feeder. Do not share or borrow one and clean it after you leave the show.
  • Beet pulp and Oats - These feeds are great for a pig with an upset stomach. If a pig gets a little stressed at the show and goes off feed, wet oats and beet pulp are a great solution to settle your pig's stomach.
  • Shavings - Shavings would be the best bedding for swine, especially if the show is held on a hard floor like concrete. Bring at least 2 bags per pig, per day. If you are staying several days, bring plenty or find out if shavings can be purchased at the show. Shavings should be cleaned or replaced regularly to remove manure or urine.
  • Straw  - Straw is great bedding when it is cold, but is not always allowed since it is hard to sweep up. One half of a bale per pig is great to let them burrow into to stay warm. Straw should be clean and free of any seeds or weeds. Those can cause skin irritation.
Washing and Grooming Supplies
  • Short water hose - Not every wash rack provides a hose. Bring one for washing and filling water.
  • Spray nozzle - This will help you control water flow and not blast you pig with high pressure. You can also turn the water off while scrubbing in soap and conditioners.
  • Shampoo - Shampoo is for cleaning the body. Use a shampoo that is labeled for pigs. Pigs have sensitive skin so using something else may cause an irritation.
  • Large towels - After washing and rinsing, pigs need to be dried, especially if the show barn is a little chilly. Dry is warmer than wet. Get them dry quickly and then a dry towel can be used to keep the drafts and dust off of them while going back to the pens or trailer.
  • Waterless shampoo - If wash racks are not available or you need to do a quick spot cleaning, a waterless shampoo works great.
  • Small towels and wash cloths - These are great for a quick wiping off of skin conditioners like baby oil or wiping away, mud, manure or other things that get on your pig.
  • Baby oil - Pigs get dry skin especially in the wintertime or after a bath. Baby oil can help to put moisture back into their skin.
  • Skin and hair conditioners - These products give your pig a shine or sheen and help make the skin and hair healthier.
  • Grill brick - Use this like a pumice block to gently remove dry, scaly skin. Remember the key, gently. Don't scrub too hard with it.
Show Tack
  • Show whip or pipe - These are used to help guide or drive your pig in the show ring. Find one that is the right length to fit you (should allow you to reach you pig's head when you stand behind them). Be sure to use the same type you practiced showmanship at home.
  • Brushes - Brushes are used to clean off what can get on your pig in the show ring. Brushes can either be small enough to hold in your hand while showing or have a handle to slide in your jean's pocket.
  • Safety pins or belt clip - If the show requires a showman number, safety pins or a belt clip are great for holding your paper number.
     Depending on the show you are going to and where it is located, these pieces of paperwork may be needed.
  • Health papers - Many states require a set of health papers before pigs can be gathered together at a show. Be sure to check with the show and with your veterinarian to get the right health papers before you head out.
  • Ownership papers/Registration papers - Keep original copies of sales receipts and registration papers with you at the show. Since swine can look very similar and have the same ear notches, papers to prove ownership are the best way to prevent any question about ownership.
     I hope this list helps you put together the tack and equipment you might need at your first few shows. There may be some things you may want to add or delete from this list as you start going to shows.

      I want to thank my friend Jeff Spake, agricultural education teacher and FFA Advisor in Arnett, Oklahoma, for helping put this blog together. Jeff has been involved with showing and raising swine projects since he was a 4-H member and continues to help his FFA members and local 4-H youth with their swine projects.

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

Monday, March 13, 2017

What's In My Show Box - Beef Cattle

     Many first time beef cattle exhibitors get overwhelmed by the amount of tack and supplies available. There are so many products with very specific purposes, and some items that are more trendy than useful. Some items are great to have at home for grooming and working with your calf, but there is no need to load the whole barn into the trailer. There are really a few things that are necessary and used every show day.

     Here is my packing list of items to take to the show for one calf and the reason why I take them.

Halters and Show Tack
  • 1 Rope Halter - This is the one used everyday to walk and work with your calf.
  • 1 Rope Neck Tie - Use this when cattle are being bedded down as a back up in case your rope halter comes untied.
  • 1 Show Halter - Get an adjustable leather halter with a chain chin piece on the lead. Halters come in different sizes and colors. Check the fit at home and adjust it before packing it for the show. Choose a color that matches your calf. Black halters for black calves, brown or reddish brown for red calves and white for solid white calves.
  • 1 Show Stick - Bring a show stick that is the right length for you and is in the best condition. I do not recommend some of the fancy painted or rhinestone covered ones I have seen. A straight stick that is a solid color that complements your calf is my choice to pack in the showbox.
  • 4 Safety Pins - Some larger shows make exhibitors wear a large paper number on you body so they can more easily keep track of who is showing. Keep safety pins in the showbox just in case you have to where a number.
Washing Supplies
  • 1 Adhesive Remover - After a full fitting, getting adhesives and paint to wash out is tough. Adhesive removers help break down the sticky stuff to make it easier to wash out. Use it before soap and water.
  • 1 Mild Soap - You do not need multiple shampoos, conditioners and detanglers at a show. One good mild soap that can remove dirt, adhesives and touch up paint is all you need. A good liquid dish soap is my favorite for its ability to remove everything we can put in a calf's hair.
  • 1 Water Hose - You need a hose that is long enough to go all the way around your calf and still reach the hydrant. Some shows supply hoses in their wash racks, but not all. The hose can also be used to fill water buckets as well.
  • 1 Spray Nozzle - I like a nozzle I can shut off while you scrub your calf and the water stream can be adjusted from a gentle shower to rinse with, to a narrow stream for powering dirt off the hooves.
Grooming and Fitting Supplies
  • 1 Regular Comb - The regular comb is used to pull up every hair and remove loose hair, especially right after a bath. I also take it into the wash rack and use the smooth back side as a water scraper to remove excess water.
  • 1 Fluffer Comb - The fluffer comb is used for just that, to fluff hair dry hair.
  • 1 Blow Dryer - Wet calf hair likes to stay laying down. Getting it dry and fluffed up is important after a trip to the wash rack. The blower can also quickly remove dust and shavings when calves have been laying down.
  • 1 Foam or Mousse - Foam or Mousse is used on the body hair to help it stay fluffed up and not lay down as easy.
  • 1 Light Adhesive - Light adhesive allows hair on the legs and tailhead to be combed into place.
  • 1 Adhesive for Leg Hair - Leg hair adhesive holds these hairs very stiff. It dries hard and allows for trimming and shaping with clippers or scissors. When dry it usually appears lighter color than most dark calves' hair.
  • 1 Touch Up Paint - Touch up paint is used to bring the right color back to areas of the body where adhesives have dried. Choose the correct color to match your calf. DO NOT use regular spray paint from the hardware store! Use a paint formulated for livestock.
  • 1 Light Oil or Sheen - These products give calf hair a shiny, healthy look. They also return some moisture to hair after a soapy wash.
  • 1 Large Clippers - Calves should have the majority of their haircut done at home, but for touching up large areas, like the ribs, belly or even the legs, they make it easier.
  • 1 Small Clippers - Small clippers are for the detail trimming where the big clippers are harder to handle. Touch up clipping on the neck, tailhead or legs can be quick and easy with small clippers.
     This is the basic set of supplies I would recommend keeping in a beef cattle showbox. These supplies and equipment will fit in a showbox that is relatively small compared to what you may see at a state fair, or national show. Outside of the blow dryer, everything could fit into two, 5-gallon buckets. It is okay to take extra supplies and equipment, but these are the things I know will be used at every show.

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

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Right Size

     It never fails. When weigh in time rolls around at the county fair, there are always animals that are too light or too heavy to show. This leads to some pretty disappointed youth and sometimes very upset parents.

     So how did this happen? Bad management? Poor genetics? Usually the answer comes to one basic problem. The animal is the wrong age to reach the proper weight range for the county fair.

     Choosing animals to show should include choosing an animal who is the right age to grow to the weight range of the last show the animal will be exhibited at. Structure, muscling, genetics and management can determine the final weight of the animal, but age can limit all these factors.

     Let's look at swine and cattle examples to see why the proper age is important. In both these examples, August 1st is the date of the imaginary county fair the animal will be shown at.


     The weight range for market swine at many county fair shows allows for pigs to be as light as 220 lbs. up to 300 lbs.  The target weight range to be competitive is more around 260 lbs. to 280 lbs. Most breeders and commercial swine producers claim their pigs can gain 2 lbs. per day. Talking with many exhibitors, extension agents, and ag teachers, and using the weight data they have collected over the years, the normal rate of gain is closer to 1.5 lbs. per day.

     Why do show pigs not gain the 2 lbs. per day? Exercise is the answer. Show pigs are fed, watered, vaccinated and sheltered as well if not better than commercial pigs, but exercise is the difference. Commercial pigs live in their pens, have full feed, water and care, but only exercise as much as they want in their pen. Show pigs are exercised to help build more defined muscle. They are also exercised to practice showmanship, learning to be driven to prepare for the show ring. The difference of additional exercise accounts for the difference in the rate of weight gain.

     Knowing an expected rate of gain of 1.5 lbs. per day, a little math can tell us when we want our show pigs to be born. If we want our show pig to weigh 275 pounds at the county fair, we divide that weight by 1.5 lbs. per day to find the number of days needed to reach 275 lbs., which is 183 days. (275 lbs./1.5 lbs. per day = 183 days). Baby pigs are not born weighing zero pounds, but on average from 2-4 lbs. This means we could subtract a few days off for their starting weight and use 180 days old as the age we want. Subtracting 180 days from August 1st means we want a show pig born around February 2nd. This date does not guarantee they will weigh exactly 275 lbs. at the county fair. Some pigs will gain more than 1.5 lbs. per day and others will gain less. It simply gives an estimated age that should get a pig who will be close to the end weight we want. Pigs born in early January would be too heavy, and pigs born in the first of March would be too light.


     Determining the proper age for cattle is less precise than swine. Market cattle can reach their mature weight between 14 and 24 months of age, but most average from 16 to 18 months. There are several factors that can vary this age including breed, age they were weaned, age they start on a grain diet and the environment they are raised in.

     For most county fairs, the weight range to show at county fairs can be as low as 900 lbs. to as high as 1600 lbs. A competitive weight range for market calves would be 1200 lbs. to 1400 lbs. for showing. Since we are looking at August 1st as the target show date, we need to find calves who were born 16 to 18 months ago. Calves born in January to March of the previous year would be the ideal age for an August show. 

     Many fairs have calves weigh in early and again at the fair. This is used to determine a rate of gain or average daily gain for each calf. The number of days between these weigh ins can be 120 to 200 days, most averaging 150 to 180 days. Show cattle tend to gain weight as well as commercial cattle and therefore have an average daily gain of at least 2lbs. or more per day.

     If a calf is born in February of the previous year, weighs 800 lbs. at the first weigh in, can gain 2.5 lbs. per day over 180 days until the fair, they should weigh 1250 lbs. at the county fair. (800 lbs. + (180 days X 2.5 lbs. per day) = 1250 lbs.)

     The final weight of the calf can vary depending on several factors. The beginning weight, the number of days on feed, and the calf's own rate of daily gain. Some calves can easily gain over 3 lbs. per day in the time between the first weigh in and the fair weigh in.

     Starting with a calf of the right age will not guarantee they will be the ideal weight on show day, but like the swine example, gives you the best opportunity to be at the weight range you want.

Good luck with your livestock project, and do not ignore their age as part of your selection criteria.

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

Friday, February 24, 2017

Livestock Project Safety

     Safety should be top of mind to everyone, every day. But as this spring finds youth beginning to work with those new livestock projects, the daily routines tend to make us, both youth and adults, lazy about safety. We do chores and go through the barns and pens not looking for those little things that may be big dangers.
     So what are some of those dangers we seem to forget to look out for. Here are a few things to think about when doing your daily chores with your projects.

Animal Hazards

     The longer we have animals, the more comfortable they are with us, and we are with them. We enter and exit pens, love on them, feed them, work them and even play with them. The thing we tend to forget is everyday they are growing and getting bigger. This means they will have more power to hurt us or someone else, even if your animal is just playing.

     We need to pay attention to our animals. Watch their body language and understand what they are doing. Here are some examples:
  • A pig or lamb who is used to waiting by the feeder and pushing by you to eat when they are little may run you over to get to their feed when they are bigger.
  • Games we played with our animals when they are little, like pushing on our baby goat's head when they try and butt us, can turn into a painful problem when they want to butt at a mature size.
  • A heifer who was very easy going may become aggressive and protective once she has a calf.
Equipment Hazards

     Equipment we use in the barns and with our animals can become very familiar to us. Good habits we once had get replaced with bad ones because we become lazy. Safety also goes by the wayside when we get in a hurry. We need to remember a few basic things about our equipment.
  • Put equipment away when not in use. Equipment can take up space and cause a hazard just by being out. Rakes, shovels, water hoses, electric cords, buckets and other small equipment can trip someone if they are just laying on the ground.
  • Check the condition of equipment before using it. Minor problems can become big problems. Leaking hoses create wet spots for us to slip in. Cracked electric cords could shock us. Broken tools may hurt us when we try and use them.
  • Make repairs immediately. It does not matter if it is small damage and something still works, or a big problem that causes a major danger, it should be repaired quickly, before the next use. If it cannot be repaired, do not use that equipment, or tool until the repair is done.
Structure Hazards

     Barns, pens, gates and fences can become damaged and worn over time. This can create hazards to us and our livestock. We need to keep these structures in good repair.
  • Fences need to be checked often to look for damage and repaired quickly. A fence may not be broken to the point an animal can get out, but they may hurt themselves on the damage.
  • Gates and doors need to be able to open easily, and to close and stay securely closed or locked. If they are in bad shape, an animal escape may be in the near future.
  • Barns, sheds and pens should be repaired when a problem or damage is found. Loose, damaged or missing nails, screws, boards, metal, can cause cuts, scrapes, bruises or stab both animals and people. In the worst case, these damages can make the structure unsafe for animals and people to be in or near.
      There are lots of safety hazards we could talk about and make this blog post extremely long. The best thing a youth or adult can do is to pay attention to the things they see everyday when working with or around their livestock project. If something does not look the same as it did before, ask yourself, "Is that safe?"

     If you are unsure something is safe, ask someone who would know. It might be your neighbor, a family member, a friend or even a professional like an electrician, carpenter or fireman. There is always someone to ask for help and someone willing to help.

Be safe, everyday!

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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Setting SMART Goals for Your Livestock Project

     One of the main portions of both the 4-H and FFA record books is an area for writing down some goals. These goals are to help you focus your efforts toward a desirable end. As part of theses goals you must know where you are, know where you want to end, and have an idea of how you will get there. Setting SMART goals is a method that can be used by youth to help them focus. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Let's look at how youth can set SMART goals for their projects.


     For something to be specific, it needs to focus on just one thing. Many times you want to have broad goals. You should focus on one aspect of your broad goal. It may take multiple SMART goals to equal the main broad goal.


     For something to be measurable, it needs to have a way to show there has been change. It must be objective, which means the measurement is not a matter of opinion, but can be proven.


     This may be the hardest or easiest to determine. Some kids dream big, others aim low so they can succeed. You really need to set a goal that is attainable, but makes you improve or shoot for the next level.


     Realistic means there is the possibility to reach the goal by yourself. You can do it without needing extra effort or resources from someone else for you to reach your goal.


     Timely means the goal can be achieved in a certain amount of time. Time may be part of the realistic portion of the goal. Ask yourself, how quick could I do this? How long should I work on this goal? For most record books, there is a place for short and long term goals. Short term goals should be attainable within the year. Long term goals take more than a year or even multiple years to attain.


     Here are a few examples of some SMART Goals a youth might have for their livestock project:

          Short Term Goals
  • Be able to catch, halter and walk my steer from the barn to the road and back by April 1st.
  • Before we go to the first jackpot show in June, be able to drive my show pigs from their pen to the practice ring without them stopping to root dirt.
  • Shear all my own sheep with just Dad's help holding their legs for me this year.
  • Practice showmanship three times a week with my goat so I can make the top cut at the county fair this year.
  • Build a new shed for my lambs this summer with money from selling this year's lamb crop.
  • Breed my show gilt to farrow in January, and raise my own show pigs for next year.
  • Go to a showmanship camp and learn to clip my own steer for the county fair this year.
  • Buy three ewes to add to my flock with my winnings from this year's sheep shows.
  • Learn to AI this spring, so I can breed my own cows and heifers in my herd and increase the quality of calves I sell next spring.
          Long Term Goals
  • I plan to build my flock to 40 ewes by my last year in 4-H. I will then sell the flock to help pay for my college expenses.
  • I will save the profit from each steer I sell at the next four county fairs to pay for my expenses to go to Citizenship Washington Focus the summer between my Junior and Senior year of school.
  • I want to show all four species, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, so I will be familiar with each. I plan to study veterinary medicine when I go to college, and become a large animal vet. 

Youth know what they want to accomplish with their projects and in their lives. Using SMART goals is a great way to make those goals more easily realistic, understandable and hopefully attainable.

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

Friday, February 3, 2017

Purchasing Livestock

     Many youth have one or two animals for their livestock project each year. Those project animals are usually purchased from breeders who make an income from raising livestock to sell to youth. Buying these animals can be a little intimidating at times. Youth want to buy the best animal for their budget and the breeders want to receive the most money for the animals they sell.

       So what are the ways to purchase a youth project animal? Let's put the buying experience into three options and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each of them.

Private Treaty

     Private treaty is the term used to describe buying an animal in person from the breeder. If this is the first livestock project for a youth, this may be the best way to learn about the animals you are about to raise and can be the least intimidating.
  • Meet the breeder and learn about the animals for sale
  • Compare multiple animals and then decide on which to purchase
  • Be able to see the parents of the animals for sale
  • Establish a relationship with a breeder for the future
  • May travel to multiple breeders before finding the animal you want to purchase
  • Animals are sold on a first come, first serve basis and some animals may already be sold
  • Prices are set by the breeder and not through competitive bids
Live Auction

     During a live auction, animals are brought to a specific location to be sold through an auction to the highest bidder. Most bidders are present at the auction, but some may be bidding over the phone or online.

  • Multiple animals are available to compare and all are for sale
  • Prices are set through competitive bidding
  • Auctions are professionally operated by the auction company
  • Bidding happens fast and you must be ready to purchase an animal quickly
  • Competitive bids can drive prices higher than expected
  • Usually cannot see parents of animals for sale unless the auction is held at the breeder's farm or ranch
Online Sales

     Breeders post pictures and videos of animals for sale on an internet webpage. Animals are usually sold through an auction format. Bidders send in their bids online and the web page updates the newest bid on the animal until the time for the auction closes.

  • Animals from across the country can be for sale in an online auction
  • Bidding can be done from the home computer or even smartphone
  • Multiple animals can be compared on multiple online sales
  • Bidders from across the country can push prices higher than at a live auction
  • Animals are not available to look at in person, and pictures or videos may be older, not showing the current condition of the animal
  • Arrangements must be made to have purchased animals picked up or delivered to buyer
     The three options all have advantages and disadvantages. The option that is best for purchasing an animal depends on how comfortable you are with that option.

     Talk to other youth and parents about their experiences purchasing animals. You may also get advice from your Extension Agent or local Agricultural Education teacher.

Good luck with your search.

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

Friday, January 27, 2017

Cattle Hair Care

     How do they get that hair? This is a common question I hear around cattle jackpot shows and fairs. The short answer is genetics, environment and hard work combined. The long answer takes a little more explanation. Here are some tips to help grow the best hair your calf can.


     Every calf has their own DNA built on the genes passed down through generations of breeding. Cattle breeds developed all over the eastern hemisphere and were selected for traits, including hair coat, that made them survive and thrive in different areas. Many Bos taurus breeds developed in the cold damp areas of northern Europe and hair was important for staying warm through the winter. Bos indicus cattle lived in hot and tropical areas like Africa and the Indian subcontinent, where hair is not necessary for staying warm.

     If you show a Bos indicus influenced breeds such as Beefmaster, Brangus or Santa Gertrudis, the genetics to produce lots of hair are probably not in their DNA. Angus, Hereford, Maine Anjou, Shorthorn and Simmental do have the genetics and should produce more hair.


     Hair growth can be greatly influenced by the environment cattle live in. By nature, cattle have more hair in the winter months, so creating a winter like environment should help increase the amount of hair.

     Most people around cattle shows have heard of cool rooms, where show cattle are kept in  cooled air or air conditioning, and out of the sun during the daytime. It is cooler than the outside conditions in late spring, summer and early fall. It does not allow in UV light from the sun, which some people feel also limits hair growth.

     Most youth do not have the money to build a cool room, so what can you do to change the environment? Shade is the first thing that can be provided. Cattle absorb sunlight and get hot the same as we do. Keeping cattle in the shade during the day helps to keep them cooler. It is also out of the UV light as well.

     Cool, damp, moving air helps keep cattle cool as well. A cheap box fan with a mister from the local garden center or hardware store can bring the air temperature down.  According to various mist system manufacturers, temperatures can be dropped from 5 to 15 degrees depending on air temperature and humidity.

Hard Work
     Genetics and environment can give you the amount of hair you want, but proper care and management of your show calf is what will make it look great. If you want the fluffy and shiny show calf, you have to do the work and give the proper care.

     The most important part of the care starts from the inside. Proper nutrition is a key to growing and maintaining hair. Hair growth is not needed by the calf to help keep it alive. This is why we see sick or under nourished cattle have rough hair coats or even loose hair. Proper nutrition will allow the calf to be healthy, grow in size and grow hair. Nutrition levels must be high in energy and protein to help maintain healthy hair growth.

     The real hard work comes with grooming. Grooming includes washing, rinsing, drying, combing, conditioning and clipping the hair. Let's look at these grooming actions and why they are important.
  • Wash your calf with a mild soap for livestock.
    • Washing removes any dirt which makes the hair heavy and dull.
    • Dirty hair will not train well when combed.
    • Washing loosens and removes dead hairs, leaving only the healthy hair.
    • Washing should be done once and up to three times a week.
  • Rinsing calves wets the hair and allows for it to be combed and dried.
    • Rinsing without soap keeps the natural oils on the hair to keep it healthy.
    • Wet hair can be trained with the comb and blower to stand away from the body.
    • Rinsing can be done daily.
  • Combing up, lifts the hair away from the body and its natural state of laying down.
    • Combing helps loosen and collect dead hair.
    • Combing can be relaxing to your calf just like rubbing them with the show stick is.
  • Drying hair helps to train the hair to stand up away from the body, giving the "fluffy" look.
    • Drying with a blower will help remove the loose dead hair.
    • Drying should be done from the rear and legs first, moving up toward the head.
  • Conditioning hair with a conditioner for livestock helps replace the natural oils that are removed during washing.
    • Conditioned hair does not dry out, becoming brittle or dead hair.
    • Conditioned hair looks healthy and "shiny".
    • Conditioned hair is easier to train to stand away from the body.
  • Clipping the hair helps to show the shape of your show calf.
    • Clipping should be done to show the best of the animal.
    • Clipping removes the ends of the hair and is the oldest hair growth. Older hair growth is usually dull and not shiny.
Additional Resources

     There are several great online resources about how to grow, maintain, groom and clip show cattle hair. There are many vendors with great products for sale to help with hair care. I would suggest you visit with someone who has shown and cared for those fluffy and shiny calves. They can help you decide which grooming practices and products may work best.

Here are a few resources on cattle grooming and hair care:

 California State University, Chico, Sheep and Goat Unit
University of Nebraska, Lincoln Extension

Good luck with getting your show calf fluffy and shiny.

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

Friday, January 20, 2017

Breaking Calves to Lead

    Once you have your calf broke to the halter and to standing tied, it is time to try leading them. At this point, after tying to the fence, your calf does take a few steps when you pull them up to tie. Now the goal is to teach them to walk with you. Calm, quiet and patient are still part of the new learning, but we are going to add building trust to the list.

Where to Start

     The best place to start learning to lead is that small pen where they learned to be haltered. Halter your calf as you have been doing. This time pick up the lead and do not let it drag.

     ***Never wrap the lead around your hand or arm. If your calf spooks and pulls back, they can pull you down or even possibly drag you!***

     With your calf haltered, pick up the lead and give it a light pull forward. If you calf gives in and takes a step, reward them immediately by giving slack in the lead. This is using pressure and release to reward your calf for doing what you asked, taking a step. If a light pull does not work, add more pressure to the lead until you get a response. Even if they do not take a step, but lean forward and stretch out their head and neck, they are at least giving to the pressure.

     Every time you ask them to take a step, be sure and reward them with the release and give them a few seconds to think about what just happened. If they are not calm, or you ask to much, or to often, leading will seem like a punishment and not a reward.

     After a few days of single steps, try asking for a couple. Some calves will figure it out quickly and start walking forward within a few days. Others will take more time and want to balk. Try pulling a little to the side. The calf will feel they are getting off balance and tend to take a step.

Get Going

     When your calf starts taking those little walks in the pen, reward them with a rub from the show stick. This will add incentive to taking the steps.

     Turning needs to be practiced and taught as well. I encourage youth to always turn calves to the right, moving the lead across the face. This is the direction they will turn in the showring. It also helps the calf know what you are asking because your body is blocking them from going forward, the lead prevents going left, leaving going right the only choice.


     When you feel comfortable your calf will lead and turn, it is time to leave the little pen. Take your calf for a walk in a bigger area if you have one available. If they trust you and seem calm leaving the pen, be brave and go for a short walk around. While walking, practice stops and turns as well.

     Continue walking and working on that trust. Lead your calf by distractions and obstacles they may see around the farm. Curious calves may balk at something first, or want to smell of it to investigate. Let them. Once they decide it is okay, they will not worry about it much more in the future. Try going through gates, barn doors and any other obstacles they may encounter.

     Introduce them to the trailer as well. Open and close the trailer gate so they learn the sounds it makes. Tie them to the trailer and let them stand while you go in and out of it. Lead them to the back of the trailer. Let them smell the floor and ask them to take a step up in the trailer. Give them time to think about it and with some more practice you will be able to teach them to load and unload.

     Every calf is different and these tips may not work for you and your situation. Remember to be calm, quiet and patient. Learning to lead is the hardest of the three processes since it involves the most trust building. Once it clicks, a calf will follow you just about anywhere you ask them to go. If you are having troubles, ask someone who has experience breaking calves to lead for help.

Good luck with your calf.

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

Friday, January 13, 2017

Training Calves to Stand Tied

     Halter breaking calves to accept having the halter put on and taken off is the first step. Teaching them to stand tied and to lead are the next steps. The processes involve the same quiet, calm and patience as did teaching them to accept the halter.

Pressure and Release

    If you have been allowing calves to drag their halter leads so they step on them, they have learned a little about pressure and release. Pressure is the feel of the halter tightening on their head when they step on the lead rope. The pressure is not severe, but calves notice the change of the halter's fit when the lead rope is stepped on. Release is what calves then notice when the lead is not being stepped on. The halter goes from being tight to its normal fit once the calf steps off the lead rope.

     As you watch your calf move around the pen dragging the lead rope, you should see them given to the pressure when they step on the lead. Calves learn that the pressure goes away when they duck their head toward the lead rope. Learning to give to the pressure is needed to start learning to stand tied.

Getting to the Fence

     Standing tied is possibly more important than learning to lead.  The basic idea is to teach the calf to stand still while tied to a solid object and eventually stand still while being held by a youth exhibitor. A calf needs to stand still during grooming and when being shown. Teaching them to stand sounds simple, but involves paying attention to some basic signals from your calf.

   In the pen you have been working your calf, find a solid section of fence to tie your calf to. Make sure they have plenty of space to move side to side. I advise youth to get a little help for safety. Take the lead rope and hand it to someone on the outside of the pen. Go to the outside of the pen and help them to pull the calf to the fence. Being on the outside of the pen will keep you from being mashed against the fence by your calf while tying them up. If you do not have someone to help, go outside of the pen and grab the lead rope with the hook on a show stick.

Tying Up

    Now that the calf is next to the fence, tie them at head height, with 1 foot to 1 1/2 feet of lead using a quick release knot. This is done for several reasons. Having their head at normal height allows them to look around without feeling trapped. The short lead length prevents them from being able to lay down when you want them to be standing. The quick release knot is for safety. If your calf panics, you can quickly pull the end of the lead and let them loose.

Standing Tied

     Once your calf is tied, step back and let them test the new situation. Every calf reacts differently to being tied. Observe their reaction to being tied. If you feel they are panicking or could possibly hurt themselves, let them go. Most calves will test being tied to see if they can get away, but given some time they will calm down.
     ***Never leave a tied calf alone. They may be acting great, but any sudden loud noise, motion or other scare may cause them to panic. You need to be there to turn them loose if needed.***

     When you see they have calmed down, take the show stick and give them a rub and see how they react. If it seems to help keep them calm, continue rubbing. If not, stop and let them calm back down.

Let Them Go

      Let calves stand tied 5 to 10 minutes the first time unless they panic. Release the knot from outside the pen. Let them drag the halter for a little while and think about what just happened. Then take the halter off and let them do there normal halter free activities.

Try It Again

     If the first time is successful, repeat what you did over the next few days and weeks, increasing the amount of time they stand tied by a few minutes each day until they can stand for 30 minutes calmly. Also start approaching your calf while they are tied. Remember to walk toward their left shoulder, not the ribs or hips, and give them a good hands on rub on the neck. Just be sure not to get yourself mashed against the fence.

Additional Resources

Here is a video on tying calves from VitaFerm Sure Champ.
(This is not an endorsement of VitaFerm products. This video link is presented for educational purposes only.)

Every calf is different, and this may not work with your calf or situation. If you are having problems with tying your calf, ask someone who has done it for some help. Be sure to stay safe and know when to give your calf and yourself a break if it is not going well.

Good luck.

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

Friday, January 6, 2017

Halter Breaking Calves

     When it comes to the checklist of things to do with a calf project, halter breaking, and breaking to lead are pretty high on the list. If you are lucky, the calf you purchase may be broke to the halter and lead a little, but most are not. There are lots of ways and stories of how to accomplish breaking to halter and lead, but the best ways involve quiet and patience.

What You Need

     There are two basic pieces of tack you need to start the halter breaking process. Rope halters are the best for breaking and are made of nylon or poly rope to resist rotting. They are one piece, braided so they create 4 parts: a lead, a chin piece, a nose piece and a head piece. The other piece of tack is a show stick. A show stick gives the extra reach you made need to touch your calf.

     A small pen to limit the space your calf has to move around is best to begin trying to halter. 10 ft. x 10 ft. is the smallest size I would work in. The largest pen size I would try and work in would be 20 ft. x 20 ft.

Quiet, Calm and Patient

     These three traits will be the most important when it comes to halter breaking. Cattle are naturally quiet, and so should you. A calf will let you know if they are nervous by switching their tail, turning away from you, or facing you and lowering or shaking their head. Getting calves used to you is accomplished by days and maybe weeks of just being in the pen with them. Calves will begin to accept you as part of their world and not be afraid if you are quiet, calm and patient.

Movement and Touch

     I advise you to begin touching calves with a show stick. The show stick allows for you to remain at a safe distance while beginning to touch the calf. I begin low on the calf's brisket and belly, the areas you may rub later when they are in the showring. Make sure your movements toward the animal are purposeful, slow and never sudden or loud.

Putting On The Halter

     Once you feel confident you can get close and touch your calf, it is time to put on the halter. The biggest mistake is getting the halter on wrong. The lead rope should be on the left side of the calf's face. The lead passes though the loop and then passes under the lower jaw, becoming the chin piece. It then goes up the right side of the face, and around behind the ears, ending back at the loop. The nose piece is also attached at the loop and should go over the top of the calf's muzzle about halfway between the eyes and nose.

  1. Adjust the size of the halter big enough to easily fit over the muzzle, and around the head behind the ears.
  2. Approach the calf quietly and position the halter to fit over the muzzle.
  3. Guide the halter onto the muzzle.
  4. Place the head piece around the calf's right ear, then the poll and finally the left ear.
  5. Once the halter is on the muzzle and the top of the head, pull the slack out of the halter by pulling the lead through the loop until the halter is snug on the calf's head.
  6. Adjust the nose piece if needed to make sure it is not in the eyes or the down on the nose.
Breaking to the Halter

     Now that the halter is on, let the calf walk around the pen with it on, dragging the lead. They will step on the lead and cause some pressure to be applied and released as they walk. This will be the best introduction to pressure and release for them.

     Some people will advise you to leave the halter on for several days, but this should only be done if the pen they are in has no possible way for the lead to become caught or tangled. If a calf feels they are trapped in their halter, they may panic, and could hurt themselves. I advise removing the halter when you are not able to watch and work with the calf. To remove the halter, reverse the steps 5 to 2 from above. Learning to have the halter taken off and put on is part of the breaking process.

     After several days and weeks of having the halter taken on and off, calves learn to accept it and you can begin the process of breaking to lead and standing tied.

Additional Resources

Here is a great video from the University of Missouri showing how to halter a calf for the first time:


Every calf is different, and these tips may not work with your calf. If you are having problems with halter breaking, ask someone who has done it for some help. Be sure to stay safe and know when to give your calf and yourself a break if it is not going well.

Good luck with the halter breaking process.

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