Livestock Skillathon

Since 2011, over 10,000 youth in 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.

Skillathons focus on experiential learning and allow youth to solidify their learning with hands-on experiences.


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.

The Value of Skillathons

Lydia Ulry and Jane Wright with Ohio 4-H Youth Development wrote a great explanation of The Value of Skillathons in June 2019.

Rules for NY Livestock Skillathons

  • Enrolled NYS 4-H youth
  • A team will consist of 3 or 4 members. Team scores will be a total of the three high individual scores from the designated team.
  • Each contestant must be at least 8 years of age and in third grade or higher by January 1 of the current year and less than 19 years of age on January 1 of the current year.
  • Junior Division is open to those youths who have not reached their 14th birthday before January 1 of the current year.
  • Senior Division is open only to those youth who have reached their 14th birthday as of January 1 of the current year and who have not reached their 19th birthday as of January 1 of the current year.
  • Individuals who have enrolled in a post-secondary university, college, junior college, or technical institute animal science course are not eligible for participation.
  • Only Senior team members may be selected to advance to the national level to represent New York State. Staff who are responsible for more than one county and are working with youth in those respective counties may enter those youth as a combined county team. However, the team’s name must list the counties in which the youth represented on the team are enrolled for insurance coverage. All individuals will receive participation recognition. Contestants may be divided into groups for the contest. They will remain in these groups for the duration of the contest. Questions for information or clarification of instructions should be directed to group leaders or officials.
  • Contestants will participate in individual activities and team-oriented exercises.
  • 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.
  • Identification (50 points possible per topic). Individuals may be asked to identify retail meat cuts, livestock equipment, feeds and breeds, evaluate cuts of meat and hay or wool samples and complete a quality assurance exercise.
  • Team Questions (100 points possible per topic). Team participation will be required in a quality assurance exercise, evaluation of livestock feeding and/or performance information, and an animal breeding or marketing scenario and exercise.
  • Station topics may be changed or substituted as needed
  • All participants will receive recognition.
  • The New York State 4-H Skillathon Team is selected from the high scoring seniors. The coach of the high scoring senior county team serves as the coach of the state team.
  • The NYS 4-H Skillathon Team will be eligible to travel to Louisville, Kentucky to participate at the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE). The first National 4-H Livestock Skillathon contest was held in Kentucky in 2001. The first NYS 4-H Livestock Skillathon Team participated at this event in 2002.

For more information

Contact Brian Aukema at bja14 [at]