4-H youth are likely familiar with this concept. Their fine work in animal husbandry was recently on display at the 4-H Youth Livestock Competition during the Annual Hernando County Fair which featured rabbit, poultry, swine and steer competitions.
The ‘Cloverbuds Competition’ for children ages 5 – 7, is neither judged or scored, but aims to introduce the concept of recognition for animal husbandry, awarding participation ribbons only.
For the older children, the competition process is rigorous and thorough. Scores are based on a number of standards. In the rabbit and poultry competitions, standards are set by the The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) and the American Poultry Association (APA).
“It has to do with size, weight, length of ears, color, body type, head size, and so much more. The animals are given ribbons based not only on these standards but the general care, condition, and grooming of the animal. Once the ribbons are declared by the judge, s/he chooses class winners (classes are by age and gender) and then from those, a grand and a reserve grand for the show. These are the animals that are the closest to the ideal standards, are well presented in condition and grooming, and show the most promise for continuing the characteristics of the breed,” explained Nancy A. Moores, 4-H Youth Development Agent III.
Questions are asked of each competitor relating to health of the animal, determining gender and if it’s fit to breed. Based on their answers, points are awarded.
Steer are judged on body condition and finish. Moores explained, “This is a market animal going directly to slaughter and will be a food product in someone’s home. Therefore, the judge is making sure it is “finished out” and ready for consumption. While we do not have the ability to see inside, the judge uses his hands to feel for things such as the rib area (rib eye) and such. They are very experienced in the skills of judging an animal while still on the hoof.” In the showmanship category, judges look for how well the competitor handles the steer, maintaining the correct posture to show off the animal’s assets.
While Moores says it’s much more difficult to show swine, they are judged similar to steer. For both steer and swine, questions are asked in relation to the meat industry, cuts of meat and values of certain cuts.
Judges expect competitors to show their swine in a specified manner. Moores explains that it’s, “about keeping the animal moving, the head up and out of the dirt to show off the length of loin, shoulder and butt, as well as the framing of the animal. You are supposed to keep it moving in front of the judge but far enough away that s/he can see the entire pig in one view. Never put yourself between the pig and the judge and use your equipment to settle the animal and keep it moving but never strike the animal hard.”
As you can see, there are lot of concepts and techniques for these kids to master in order to successfully raise livestock and compete in youth livestock shows. Resources are available for guidance at http://florida4h.org under ‘Animal Sciences.’ There are a variety of projects listed to teach children about raising animals for the agricultural industry. You can also contact our Hernando County 4-H Youth Development Agent Nancy Moores at (352) 754-4433 ext 2. With summertime just around the corner, this could be a great way to keep your child engaged and learning while not in school.