Animal Crackers

Saturday, May 4, 2024

All Creatures Great and Small featuring Beef, Dog, Horse and Swine!

The annual Animal Crackers program provides New York youth with fun, hands-on, science-oriented learning experiences on Animal Science topics. This workshop is for 4-H members interested in learning more about their favorite livestock, companion or pet animal species; emphasis on different species groupings and activities varies annually. Participants will learn about different aspects of animal care, interact and exchange information with faculty, staff, students, professional producers, industry experts, and more, utilizing the unique facilities of Cornell University. Hands-on workshops are planned for each species group.

Each year an opening presentation kicks off the event with a welcoming statement or remarks related to the annual theme. Livestock production and companion animal themes are offered every year, Dairy topics in odd years, and Horse topics in even years. A noon-time demonstration and closing program is also typically featured.

Workshop presenters and topics are selected by a planning committee that looks at trends and current issues. Youth input on topics is also solicited through statewide advisory committees and educator feedback.

Examples of some of the fun things participants have experienced in the past: The holey cow, dog first aid basics, goat milk soap, wool felting, poop soup, chicken anatomy, farrier tools, and more!

2024 Event Information

Date:  Saturday, May 4, 2024

Time:  8:30 am - 9:00 am - Check-in will be in the main lobby of Frank B. Morrison Hall.  Program starts promptly at 9 am.

Location:  CALS Animal Science, 507 Tower Rd., Frank B. Morrison Hall, Ithaca, NY, 14853.

Parking:  Parking is free on Saturdays in the large lot adjacent to the south end of Morrison Hall (“O” lot) or in the Peterson lot at the corner of Judd Falls and Tower Roads across the street from the Dairy Bar.  If participants are in need of handicap parking, please notify the event coordinators when registering prior to the event.

The program is geared to enrolled 4-H youth involved in the beginning stages of their 4-H animal science projects. Youth are strongly encouraged to attend with their parents or chaperones. Suggested age range is 8-12, however, all youth 8 and up are welcome.

  • $25 per youth participant
  • $15 per adult/chaperone

New this year!!!  Lunch will be provided for both youth and chaperones. Please indicate on the registration any dietary needs.  We will also be providing Animal Cracker t-shirts for youth participants as well.  Adults may purchase Animal Cracker t-shirts at the door. 

Transportation to and from the event is at the participant’s own expense. Some CCE Associations charge additional fees to cover transportation & chaperone expenses.

Participants should make payment directly to the local county CCE Office, not sent to Cornell University.

Educators:  The County Association who submitted the registration will be invoiced after the event. Each participant must be registered separately, but registration fees can be combined so that only one payment is needed. You do not need to send separate checks or pay individually via credit card for each individual youth.

If a parent/guardian is acting as a youth's chaperone, it is not necessary for that parent/guardian to be register separately as a chaperone, but they still will be responsible for the $15 chaperone fee.

Cancellation/Refund Policy: Cancellations prior to the event deadline will not be charged. Cancellations after the deadline will be billed. Substitutions or same program replacements are allowed, but need to be registered and approved by the event coordinator before arrival. No-shows will be charged in full.

Workshops information:


  • Workshop 2: Body Condition Scoring (BCS) - Beef cattle have requirements for energy, protein, minerals, vitamins, and water just like us.  Did you know there is a scoring system that visually evaluates the amount of condition (subcutaneous fat) an animal is carrying and the nutritional status of an animal. Let’s give BCS a try and see if our animals are getting adequate groceries.
  • Workshop 1:  Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) - It’s our commitment to food safety, animal well-being, and beef quality.  Developing a good health program can reduce drug residue and injection site damage to quality meat cuts. But when we do have to treat, it’s all about location and technique for the best piece of meat. 


  • Workshop 1:  Nose Work - We will discuss training, grooming and/or animal assisted activity training. And the use of dogs in scent detection, including in the sport of nose work. Several teams of handlers and dogs will do nose work demonstrations in different locations around Morrison Hall.
  • Workshop 2:  Is that Normal? - Participants will learn about the difference between a normal healthy dog and what is abnormal.  Each participant will learn how to take a dog’s temperature, pulse and respiratory rate.  They will learn how to restrain properly, when to call the vet and what they should have in their at home first aid kit.


  • Workshop 1:  Off to the Races! - Participants will learn about two different types of footing that horses race on: Dirt flat track and Harness track. Each participant will get to create tubes with their own footing for both the harness track and the flat track and why different footing is important for horse health and rider/driver safety.
  • Workshop 2:  No Hoof, No Horse! - A local Farrier will come and discuss the art of caring for a horses hoof. They will go over different tools, what a farriers day looks like, discus parts of the hoof, and how to care for a hoof.


  • Workshop 1:  Fine Swine: A Day in the Life of a Pig: Daily Care and Housing for a Healthy Pig. - Participants will design a daily observation checklist for pig health and safety following a discussion of healthy pig behavior, looks and movement.  Then they will work in small groups to decide the best way to set up a pig pen keeping manure management in mind.
  • Workshop 2: Fine Swine: A Day in the Life of a Pig: Ear Notches and Walking Hogs. - Participants will learn why we notch a pig’s ears, how to read the notches, and make their own pig ear headband with notches that match their birthday. They will also learn how to walk pigs.
  • Registration Being:  Wednesday, March 27th
  • Registration Deadline:  Wednesday, April 25th
  • Cancellations:  Because we must order lunches by April 26th, cancellations must reach us by April 25th or they will be billed.
Parents of youth interested in attending Animal Crackers must register with their local 4-H Youth Development program through their local county Cornell Cooperative Extension Office.  CCE County Associations have varying policies about participation in 4-H events, and not all counties participate in Animal Crackers. The NYS 4-H Office encourages CCE Associations to invite all eligible youth in their programs to participate.
Only NYS 4-H Educators or CCE Staff can register youth for Animal Crackers.

When registering participants, CCE Staff will need the following information:

  • Youth's full name, address and contact information
  • Youth’s age
  • Youth's t-shirt size
  • Does the youth have a phone/media release form on file
  • Parent's full name(s) and current email address
  • Will this parent be acting as the youth’s chaperone
  • Will more than one parent be attending?  If so, full name of that parent and contact information
  • Chaperone's full name and current email information
  • Any dietary needs for both youth and chaperones
If you are not a NYS 4-H Educator or CCE staff member and you register for this program your registration will not be accepted.  A Cornell NETID must be used to register for this program.

Educators:  Each participant must be registered separately at the link below.  Your county association will be billed shortly after the completion of the event.  If a parent/guardian is acting as a youth's chaperone, it is not necessary for that parent/guardian to register separately as a chaperone, but they still will be responsible for the $15 chaperone fee.

  • CCE Educators or Staff Only - Register Youth Here

If you have any questions regarding registering youth for Animal Crackers, please contact Barb Jones at bjj6 [at] (bjj6[at]cornell[dot]edu) or Brian Aukema at jms943 [at] (bja14[at]cornell[dot]edu).

General 4-H Policies and Information for Chaperones

Everyone (youth and adults) are expected to create an inclusive and welcoming environment, respect the diversity of conference participants (e.g. race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, cultural background, etc.). Everyone will be expected to uphold the NYS 4-H Code of Conduct. All youth and adults are expected to model appropriate behavior and follow NYS 4-H guidelines. In addition, all Cornell property and Cornell program presenters should be treated respectfully. County participants acting inappropriately will be sent home at their cost/inconvenience.

For Animal Biosecurity, all participants should plan to wear clean clothes and extra shoes that were not worn on the day of the event for home farm chores. Disposable booties will be provided.

Adult chaperones are responsible for behavior and safety of their attendees. Counties are expected to provide chaperones in about a 1 to 6 ratio for youth attending in each species track. Chaperones may be shared with other counties. Every participant must have a designated chaperone. Chaperones may be expected to supervise youth from other counties during program times and in the absence of a 4-H Educator, chaperones may need to make decisions on their Educator’s behalf. Any disturbances or emergencies should be reported to participant’s chaperone first and then county educator and event staff if needed. Alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs are strictly prohibited.

Lead 4-H Educator: Each Association is expected to identify a Lead Educator designated as a main contact for registration purposes, for volunteer supervision, and for crisis and incident management. Lead educators also need to communicate with their attendees to assure they are oriented and aware of other registered county delegates.

For more information on NYS 4-H General & Chaperone Policies, visit the NYS 4-H Policies webpage.

Conference participants will be asked to help us learn about the program’s effectiveness by completing a survey or sharing their reflections. Participation in program evaluation efforts is completely anonymous, voluntary, and there is no impact on program participation if someone decides not to complete a survey.

We are committed to providing universal access to all of our events. Please have your 4-H Educator contact Barb Jones at bjj6 [at] (bjj6[at]cornell[dot]edu) before the registration deadline to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.

The members of the 2024 Animal Crackers Planning Committee listed below have given their time and expertise to make the Animal Crackers program a success. Thank you to all for your support of this program and of the NYS 4-H Program.

Cornell University

  • Brian Aukema, Youth Livestock Specialist, CALS Animal Science - Co-Chair
  • Linzi Chambers, Extension Aide, CALS Animal Science
  • Debbie Grusenmeyer, Dairy Youth Specialist, CALS Animal Science
  • Brieanna Hughes, CALS NYS 4-H Equine Specialist
  • Barbara Jones, Administrative Assistant, CALS, Animal Science
  • Jessica Tyson, NYS 4-H Horse Educ. Events Coordinator - Co-Chair
  • Jessica Waltemyer, Small Ruminant Extension Specialist, CALS Animal Science

Cornell Cooperative Extension 4-H Educators

  • Robin Bartholomew, CCE Onondaga
  • Kristina Gabalski, CCE Orleans
  • Katharine Perz, CCE Suffolk

Special Thanks

For more information about the 2024 Animal Crackers Program, contact your local county Cornell Cooperative Extension Office,  Brian Aukema at bja14 [at] (bja14[at]cornell[dot]edu) or Jessica Tyson at jms943 [at] (jms943[at]cornell[dot]edu).