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Participating in livestock programs are one of the most recognized aspects of 4-H, but along with learning about animals young people can develop positive character traits to become the leaders of tomorrow.
There are many ways youths can be involved in livestock programs through 4-H. Programs offered through 4-H include quiz competitions, skillathons, livestock judging, projects and shows. Owning an animal is not a requirement for participation.
Mentally challenging programs such as quiz contests, skillathons and livestock judging provide young people with skills they can use throughout their lives. These skills allow 4-H’ers to become more informed consumers, team players, better employees and community leaders, regardless of whether they ever own an animal. Competitions and skillathons test youths’ knowledge in various aspects of dairy and livestock production. Dairy Jeopardy covers all facets of the dairy industry, and skillathons test their general knowledge of livestock including nutrition, genetics, disease prevention, and equipment. Young people learn to be more observant, confident and develop effective communication skills. They also learn how to make confident decisions and logically defend those decisions to a judge.
Livestock projects allow 4-H’ers to get firsthand experience in raising and caring for an animal. Caring for an animal teaches youth responsibility. As the animal grows, young people can take pride in knowing they helped the animal develop and mature.
Livestock shows can be competitive for some youths and parents, but that shouldn’t be the focus. The goal of 4-H is to raise grand champion kids, not grand champion livestock. Participation in shows teaches youths the importance of proper public behavior in a contest setting. Losers are taught to be courteous to winners, and winners learn to accept their award graciously and humbly.
Participating in shows, such as at the Kentucky State Fair, provides opportunities for youth to develop friendships and network with others from different parts of the state. 4-H’ers also have the opportunity during the fair to educate those who are not familiar with livestock shows about show criteria, animal care and maintenance, and 4-H.
Opportunities are limitless and empowering for youth in 4-H dairy and livestock programs. For more information on the Owen County Livestock Club or the club’s upcoming orientation meeting on Jan. 15 at 5 p.m., contact the Owen County Cooperative Extension Service at 484-5703.
Jessi Williams is the Owen County Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development