4-H Livestock Skillathon

  • Livestock Skillathons focus on experiential learning and allow youth to solidify their learning with hands-on experiences.
  • Since 2011, over 10,000 NY youth have participated in nine animal-related skillathons during the New York State Fair. Species included beef, dairy, dog, goat, horse, poultry, rabbit, cavies (guinea pigs), sheep, and swine. Although contests may have different names such as the Dairy Challenge, Hippology, Rabbit & Cavy Science Decathlon, Poultry Judging and Dog or Livestock Skillathon, they are all Skillathons.
  • Lydia Ulry and Jane Wright with Ohio 4-H Youth Development wrote a great explanation of The Value of Skillathons in June 2019.
  • In New York state, the objectives of livestock skillathons are:
    • To provide youth with the opportunity to blend knowledge and skills acquired in livestock judging, demonstrations, care, and exhibition of animals into one activity.
    • To provide youth who have no opportunities for livestock ownership with an opportunity to learn about the importance of livestock and their products to the environment and economy.
    • To encourage youth to continue expanding their knowledge and participation.
    • To recognize youth for their total involvement in and comprehension of the livestock industry.
    • To instill ethical values, good sportsmanship, and product evaluation skills.

Click on the following for a pdf of the General Rules for State and Regional Livestock Contests.

New York State and Regional Competition

The Livestock Skillathon contests tests a 4-H member’s knowledge and comprehension of animal science and livestock management practices.  The contest provides an opportunity for youth to gain and develop production livestock skills and life skills through a competitive environment.

  • For these contests, a “team” is defined as a group of either three (3) or four (4) individuals whose contest scores will be considered as a “team score.”  Prior to the state contest, these team members may have worked together in a cooperative effort, but not necessarily.  If there are 3 or 4 individuals from a county on the same level, they must compete as a team also.
  • Each county can have a maximum of 8 contestants for each level:  Beginner, Junior or Senior.
  • The members of a particular “team” should all be from the same county unless there is a multi-county program agreement.  If a county does not have enough team members to fill 2 full teams (up to 8 participants per level), counties may combine contestants to make a full team or additional team if the maximum number of participants has not exceeded 8 for each level.
  • If a county has more than four individuals, and there is not an opportunity to add members from another county to form a team, those youth may participate in the contest as individual participants. Members of the team and those competing as individuals must be identified at registration.  Individual participants are not eligible for team awards but will compete for individual placings.
  • Individual county rules may vary from State Contest rules. Please carefully read the state rules.
  • Contestants are expected to provide their own pencils/pens when needed for a contest.
  • The use of cell phones by contestants will not be permitted during any of the livestock youth educational contests.
  • At the State Contest, the contest coordinator has final authority should problems arise.  At the Regional Contest, each region must have a problem-solving committee of 3 people that can include the regional coordinator, another educator, a coach, or another volunteer.
  • If an individual requires any accommodation, please let the contest coordinator know at pre-registration.
  • Age – All contestants must be 8 by January 1 of the current calendar year and not have reached their 19th birthday by or on January 1 of the current year.  To be eligible for selection as a member of a state team, contestants must have been at least 14 years of age by January 1 of the current year.
  • Project enrollment – Contestants must be enrolled in 4-H in accordance with county limitations.  It is strongly suggested that contestants be enrolled in a project of which the contest is a project activity.
  • No contestant may have been a member of a state team which participated in a similar official 4-H contest of regional or national character with the same species, unless officially exempted by the Superintendent of the contest.
  • Each contestant must have been officially designated as a member of the county’s team, or as an individual contestant in cases where full teams cannot be obtained, by the Cornell Cooperative Extension Educator, 4-H, of their county.
  • No contestant may participate who as of the date of the State Contest will have participated in any official post-secondary competitive event of a similar nature in the same subject area (species) nor may the contestant have been in training for post-secondary competition.
  • Open to all Livestock 4-Her’s.  Entry will be in Beginner division (ages 8-10 years of age as of January 1); Junior division (ages 9 to less than 14 years of age as of January 1), and Senior division (ages 14 to less than 19 years of age as of January 1).  Pre-registration information will be emailed to counties for sign-up and registration for the contest will also be held at State Fair prior to the start of the contest.
  • Pre-registration must go though the county educator.  In compliance with national contest rules, any college students enrolled in a post-secondary livestock course is not eligible for livestock contests.

The format will be as follows:  Contestants will participate in individual activities and team-oriented exercises.  Contestants will be responsible for providing their own pencils/pens and calculators when needed for the contest.  Calculators can only be used for team exercises.  No other electronic devices are allowed.

  • Written Quiz 25 questions (100 points possible per person). Individuals will complete the exam independently.  Potential topics are nutrition, health, breeding, management, genetics, and current industry topics.
  • Stations will include but not be limited to:
    • Equipment Identification
    • Livestock Feeds
    • Retail Meat Cuts
    • Livestock Breeds
    • Wool Evaluation
    • Hay Identification
  • Team Questions (100 points possible per topic).  Team participation will be required in a quality assurance exercise, evaluation of livestock feeding or performance information, and animal breeding or marketing scenario and exercise.
  • The New York State 4-H Skillathon Team will be selected from the high scoring seniors at the state event at the NYS Fair. These finalists will be eligible to participate in a nationally sponsored contest.
  • Participant ribbon to each contestant in Beginner, Junior, and Senior Divisions.
  • Ribbon (to show rank) to each of the top 10 individuals in Beginner, Junior, and Senior Divisions.
  • Ribbon (to show rank) to each of the members of the top 5 teams in Beginner, Junior, and Senior Divisions.

For more information

Contact Brian Aukema at bja14 [at] cornell.edu (bja14[at]cornell[dot]edu).