4-H Livestock and Poultry Projects

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In the more than 100 year history of 4-H, the organization has grown from the original focus on agriculture to include science, technology, leadership development, and more. Though the focus on agriculture has not been forgotten. One of the most prevalent youth get involved with agriculture in 4-H is through showing livestock and poultry.

4-H livestock and poultry projects give youth the chance to raise, train, care for, and show an animal. Through 4-H there are opportunities for youth to raise a calf, lamb, goat, chicken, or turkey. Depending on the animal the child chooses to raise each project will be a little different.

This project should be a family affair. It can promote family time by providing the opportunity for a family to work side by side on a common goal.

Photo taken by Charlie Godfrey, in the photo Emma Snyder showing her turkey.

Before beginning the project, it is important to consider the financial cost, land or space needed to raise the animal, and the time investment necessary. Livestock shows in North Carolina are typically in late summer and early fall culminating with the State Fair in mid-October in Raleigh, NC.

The benefits of participating in 4-H livestock and poultry have been evident in the lives of youth in the short term and long term. Texas Tech University conducted a research study aimed at validating the perceived benefits of youth livestock projects. The study was conducted through the review of historical documents, interviews, and observations. From that study, the following perceived benefits were validated

  • Development of social relationships
  • Character development including responsibility, confidence, and sportsmanship
  • Family togetherness
  • Exposure to competition.
  • Exposure to cultures.
  • Knowledge and care of animals.

One project that 4-H participants in Caldwell County have taken part in is the youth market turkey show at the NC State Fair. This starts in June when the participants are given three poults ( the term for a baby turkey) that are a day old from the hatchery at NC State University. The youth raise the turkeys at their home until the time comes for the State Fair in October.

Each participant chooses their best turkey from the three to enter in the youth show at the State Fair.

The judge allots points according to body weight, conformation of the breast, legs, thighs, wings, and back.

Group Pic

Photo taken by Charlie Godfrey, in the photo on the back row left to right Joseph Snyder, Mack Waters, Lilly Pearson; in the front row left to right Alex Cassavaugh, Nolan Wallace, Emma Snyder. Caldwell County youth at the North Carolina State Fair to show their turkey.

The overall finish, feathering, health, market defects and uniformity are scored as well. The participants may be asked one or two questions about their turkey. This year six youth from Caldwell County participated in this project. It is great to see all they learned from this project.

In conclusion, 4-H youth that shows livestock or poultry learn valuable skills they take with them through life. Life skills, character development, and social skills all can be developed through these projects.

To learn more about opportunities for youth through Caldwell County 4-H has to offer, please contact me at charlie_godfrey@ncsu.edu or 828-757-1257.