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, 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