Preparing 4-H Fair Projects: K-State Experts Advise on Animal Care and Training Techniques

By Trish Svoboda

Many 4-H families are busy preparing their fair projects, and the Kansas State University Beef Cattle Institute offers guidance on ensuring positive learning experiences for 4-H participants with their animals.

On a recent Cattle Chat podcast, K-State beef cattle nutritionist Phillip Lancaster emphasized the importance of starting with a feeding plan. He said a common mistake is underfeeding or overfeeding market animals. Lancaster stressed that it’s critical in the final 60 days before the fair to achieve the desired finish on the calf. He said it’s important to weigh the feed accurately to ensure the right amount is given.

In addition to proper nutrition, K-State veterinarian Brian Lubbers emphasized the importance of maintaining feed and health records. He advised 4-Hers to track the calf’s average daily gain and cost of gain by recording beginning weight, mid-weight, and final weight before the fair, along with documenting all health treatments.

Getting ready for the fair includes teaching cattle to follow the lead of 4-H members using a halter and positioning their feet correctly with a show stick. K-State veterinarian Bob Larson stressed the necessity of early halter training for calves to simplify handling as they mature, advising gentle methods and plenty of practice time before the fair.

Experts also highlighted the importance of familiarizing animals with different handlers and exposing them to various environmental stimuli, such as unfamiliar sounds and sights, to help them adjust to the fair setting.

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