This article was written by Megan Nielson, former 4-H Youth Livestock Field Specialist.
With a new project year comes time for selecting new animals to have as part of your 4-H project. Youth interested in selecting their own animals are encouraged to work with their project leaders, parents, or area producers to help guide them through this process. Published resource materials, within specific projects, are also great starting tools to see what is current in the industry when selecting an animal. Participation on an animal evaluation team (ex. horse, livestock, dairy) is another resourceful tool to provide knowledge in basic concepts of skeletal structure, muscle and fat conformation, and pedigree records.
After establishing project goals to achieve within a project, here are some helpful reminders to consider when selecting your next animal, keep in mind the animal is an investment:
- When is the animal needed relative to exhibiting or breeding
- Is the price paid for the animal consistent with the desired objective
- Animal breed, size, or disposition, will the youth be safe interacting with the project animal.
Finally, to be successful in your next animal project keep in mind it takes three key elements:
- Genetics- Start with genetic lines that perform well for your specific goal, an animal is only as good as its genetic makeup allows it to be. When purchasing new stock, seek out reputable breeders with animals who have proven growth and performance records.
- Feed and Nutrient Management- Understand how the nutritional requirements change as the animal ages to maximize growth and performance results. Work with trained nutritionists to provide the proper feed at the appropriate times of production.
- Management and Handling skills- Follow humane practices and work daily with your livestock project, this will allow for greater returns in competition settings. Furthermore, animals that are provided excellent environmental care make more rapid, efficient gains and produce inevitably a higher quality product.
Best of luck in selecting your next project animal, but remember it is important to understand the project and associated goals before finding the right animal.