Youth Livestock Skill-a-thon

2012 Annual Report for YENC12-041

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2012: $1,993.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: South Dakota
Project Manager:
Megan Nielson
SDSU Extension

Youth Livestock Skill-a-thon


[Editor’s Note: To see the full report with the Tables of Skill-a-thon schedules, please open the attached PDF version of the report.]

The goal of the NCR-SARE grant for Livestock Skill-a-thons has been to educate youth about livestock production and the use of proper animal handling skills through the development of a Livestock Skill-a-thon program for South Dakota youth. Current livestock industry topics ranging from animal health and welfare to selection, nutrition, and the market of animal products are presented to youth in fun, hands-on settings that encourage youth to become more engaged and educated in livestock production. The grant funds received in the spring of 2012 have aided in the educational material development to provide 10 SDSU Extension sponsored Livestock Skill-a-thons across the state thus far. Within the first year 219 youth, representing 27 of the 66 counties in South Dakota, have participated in a livestock skill-a-thon and 122 adults have either participated or helped facilitate a skill-a-thon station. A detailed list of SDSU Extension organized Livestock Skill-a-thons is shown in Table 1.

The Livestock Skill-a-thon program has sparked development of learning communities across the state to help in the planning and development of future skill-a-thon events. A strong volunteer base of veterinarians, farm supply owners, livestock producers, and SDSU Extension and Animal Science employees have been brought together to help in the facilitation of skill-a-thon stations. Teams of leading livestock industry representatives and SDSU Extension and Animal Science employees have also developed working partnerships in the development and creation of skill-a-thon stations. This model of bringing industry together with academia to provide a quality learning opportunity for youth has proven to be very successful. Youth are learning the most current animal industry practices and discussing those issues with top animal production specialists.

Skill-a-thon materials either purchased or made from the grant funds for livestock skill-a-thon stations have been kept versatile in order to maximize their use for other non-skill-a-thon educational uses. Table 2 shows other youth programs where the skill-a-thon materials developed has been used. These events were predominately urban youth ranging in age from 5-12 years old and were from the Sioux Falls, Brookings, or Mitchell area. The Opportunity Farm Summer School Livestock Day focused around teaching the diet of the cow and how they too need to eat a balanced diet. Feed samples and diagrams utilized from skill-a-thon stations were utilized to help teach the group. Kids in the North East Hanson Explorer Day learned about pork quality by analyzing pork chops and were taught how flavor is impacted by our sense of taste & smell. Finally, area elementary school youth in the Davison Ag in the Classroom program experienced first-hand the parts of the cow’s digestive tract by playing a game with model materials that are used in ruminant stomach part identification for livestock skill-a-thons.

The development of the Livestock Skill-a-thon program in South Dakota has generated excitement for youth to learn more within their projects. It has allowed the opportunity to increase public awareness that youth working with animals are learning and following proper animal management practices. Featured articles in state and regional newspapers (The Rapid City Journal, The Daily Republic-Mitchell, and The Capital Journal-Pierre, Tri-State Neighbor, and The Farm Forum) have highlighted youth’s success at livestock skill-a-thon competitions or have promoted the educational value youth are learning from participating in livestock projects and skill-a-thons. The South Dakota State University College of Agricultural and Biological Sciences alumni publication, Growing South Dakota, has also featured an article about the recent creation of Livestock Skill-a-thons in South Dakota.

Online publicity of the Livestock Skill-a-thon program has also been shared through the SDSU Extension website, This has allowed anyone to view upcoming livestock skill-a-thon events, see results from other youth who have participated, and provide an excellent resource for kids to study from for future skill-a-thons. Stations from the livestock skill-a-thons created for contests have been re-designed to be accessible online. Kids can log on and test their “skills” in featured skill-a-thon articles that have covered animal selection or meat product identification in beef, goat, sheep, or swine species. These articles have also been shared through social media, specifically Facebook.

To help expand participation in Livestock Skill-a-thons, Livestock Skill-a-thon Starter Kits were also developed this past year. Templates for premade skill-a-thon stations, scoring methods, and advertisements were developed along with instructional sheets for running a livestock skill-a-thon, station idea development, and resources to use. These resources have been made available to 4-H Youth Program Advisors, 4-H Leaders, and parent volunteers interested in starting skill-a-thons in their areas. Mock livestock skill-a-thon programs have also been utilized to visually show parent volunteers and youth educators how skill-a-thons work. Outreach numbers through mock livestock skill-a-thon presentations are shown in Table 3. Livestock Skill-a-thon booths were presented at each event that allowed for interactive use amongst participants.

Seven South Dakota 4-H Youth Program Advisors this past year have started and implemented a livestock skill-a-thon in their counties (Brule, Buffalo/Jerauld, Charles Mix/Douglas, Clark/Spink, Hughes/Stanley, Marshall, and Miner) with assistance from the Livestock Skill-a-thon Starter Kit and/or myself. They have started to develop their own learning communities within their area thus recruiting more parent volunteers and agricultural industry representatives to help in the development of the Livestock Skill-a-thon program in South Dakota.

WORK PLAN for 2013
Continue Guiding and Establishing Livestock Skill-a-thon Learning Communities

To help in the development, promotion, and teaching of livestock skill-a-thons focus will be on continuing to help facilitate and bring people together. A beef, sheep, swine, and goat skill-a-thon committee has been organized to help in the planning of the 2013 South Dakota State Fair Livestock Skill-a-thons. SDSU Extension and Animal Science Faculty along with area industry representatives have been recruited to help in creating new skill-a-thon stations. Teaching support and skill-a-thon resources created will also be available for 4-H Youth Program Advisors to utilize in starting their own livestock skill-a-thons. More county livestock skill-a-thons are currently being planned by 4-H Youth Program Advisors for the summer of 2013.

Expansion of Participation in Skill-a-thons for 2013
Opportunity to reach more youth in livestock projects, specifically for youth in the meat or dairy goat project areas, will be achieved by adding a Goat Skill-a-thon to the South Dakota State Fair. Livestock Skill-a-thons have also been requested and added to fair schedules for the Western Junior Livestock Show held in Rapid City, SD and the South Dakota Summer Spotlight in Huron, SD. These are the second and third largest youth livestock events in South Dakota next to the State Fair. Continued efforts in online publication of livestock skill-a-thon material will also be continued on the website in order for any youth to have access and participate in learning.

Organize a State Livestock Skill-a-thon Competition for 2014
A state contest will be implemented in the summer of 2014 to select a team to represent South Dakota at the National 4-H Livestock Skill-a-thon Contest in Louisville, KY. State contest rules and procedures are currently being developed and contest material will need to be organized. Learning communities formed will be utilized in helping implement the state contest.

Evaluation of Livestock Skill-a-thon Program from 2012 to 2013
Scores and participation numbers will be analyzed from 2012 and 2013 to determine impact of the Livestock Skill-a-thon program. Skill-a-thon topic areas where youth struggle in displaying knowledge can be identified and further educational materials can be developed to meet those voids. Results of areas where youth achieve can be highly publicized to show to the general population exactly what youth are learning and consumers can be assured youth are practicing safe animal handling practices.


4-H Advisors and SDSU Extension Specialists, SDSU Faculty, Livestock Producers, Veterinarians, Business People, Faculty from Mitchell Technical Institute

Various counties
Various cities, SD 57301