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4-H Youth Experience in Animal Projects – Purposes

Originally written by Kasee Hieb, former SDSU Extension State 4-H Agri-Workforce Coordinator.


4-H Youth Development must place an importance on developing “youth experience” versus “contest participation and competition.” It is important to build the framework of design in order to develop the highest level of success for our youth.


Animal projects are an important aspect of the 4-H Program. To place emphasis on “youth experience,” the following objectives outline animal project purposes beyond event management to include youth development principles. Long considered a model program for youth to experience American Agriculture, animal projects have moved beyond animal husbandry practices to include intense scrutiny as part of the food supply feeding the world. We have a responsibility to collaboratively move to the larger intent of every 4-H event; 4-H Youth Development.

Purpose of 4-H Animal Projects

The South Dakota 4-H Youth Development Program defines the following objectives for the basis for “youth experience” with their animal project(s).

  • Objective #1: To promote personal growth and development by providing an educational experience for youth that emphasizes belonging, independence, generosity and mastery through the pathway of animal projects.
  • Objective #2: Animal projects assist youth in developing life skills. Decision making and planning are keys to building awareness and following through to project completion. When youth take responsibility for these aspects, they receive a more complete experience that prepares them for the future.
  • Objective #3: Animal projects build character through experience in a competitive environment. Positive interactions with mentors and other participants allow for exhibitors to increase their knowledge of recommended practices and procedures while building tolerance for other opinions.
  • Objective #4: To teach youth proper animal husbandry practices and spark career interests. Caring, feeding, fitting and exhibiting animals allows youth to gain experience with animal projects. Necessary paperwork assists participants to increase the well-being of animals while understanding ethical and safe practices for human consumption.

County & State Animal Projects

County and state animal project events will use the above objectives to move forward in 4-H Youth Development. This will provide the best array of involvement and participation in order to provide 4-H Youth a positive “youth experience.”


The message of 4-H Youth Development does not change, but the methods that drive the program forward often need to change with the times. The strategies proposed in this document may bring specific questions, but consistency is the key for implementation. For the purpose of this document, changes are identified and explained below.

Changes to State Fair 4-H Animal Project Requirements/Participation

  • DNA collection is no longer required for 4-H livestock

Direct Action

  • Affidavits will be available for unofficial use.
  • The unofficial affidavits provide a tool for exhibitors when collecting the needed information for animal entry into 4HOnline.
  • Data that is collected on the unofficial affidavit correlates directly to the animal identification documentation entered in 4HOnline.
  • As affidavits are for unofficial use, they will not be accepted as an official form of ‘back up’ when checking in at State Fair.
  • 4HOnline data entry for 4-H animal identification is the exhibitor’s responsibility.
  • It is the exhibitor’s responsibility to ensure registration is completed accurately before the deadline of June 1st at 11:59p.m. To ensure accurate data entry, the youth/family member(s) should enter their own data.
  • 4-H Youth Program Advisors have a responsibility to ensure that 4-H youth/families in their county(ies) have the resources available to enroll online. We recognize not all families have computer and/or internet access consistently available. Also, some 4-H youth/families, particularly those new to the program, may not be comfortable entering their information on their own. Mentorship to 4-H youth/families should be provided during the enrollment and entry season. This can be in the form of offering open enrollment times at the county office and/or other central locations, offering enrollment events with 4-H clubs, offering opportunities for 4-H youth/families to schedule times to meet with you individually, or alternative options that may work better. Members of the South Dakota 4-H Team have the responsibility to provide high quality customer service to youth and families served.
  • Initial weight for market animals is no longer required to participate at the State Fair.
  • This does not prevent counties from holding their own county level rate of gain contest or other educational program.
  • When a county holds their own county level weigh-in/rate of gain contest and a youth does not attend, the lack of participation does not disqualify them from the county event. As long as all state level deadlines and requirements are met, the youth’s animal project(s) is eligible for State Fair 4-H exhibition.
  • Market animal NUES tagging requirements remain the same as in past years. Market animals must have an NUES tag to be exhibited at the County Achievement Day/Fair and South Dakota State Fair 4-H show. (Note: market sheep and market goats need scrapie tags, so NUES tags are not needed.) Without state level weigh-in requirements for market animals, NUES tagging is a self-identification process administered by the youth/family.
  • To encourage consistency, informational help sheets will be provided to ensure proper preparation and training for exhibitors and their families.
  • Registration papers are the exhibitor’s responsibility.
  • If an exhibitor does not have a registration paper for their animal by July 1st, an official letterhead with a detailed explanation from the respective breed association stating circumstances for the lack of paperwork must be uploaded in its place. E-mail explanations alone for late registration papers are NOT an accepted document.
  • If an exhibitor does not upload a registration paper (or other supporting document) by July 1st, that animal must be entered in the commercial/crossbred division at both the county event and State Fair. If a supporting document is provided by the July 1st deadline, but the registration paper is not available by the county qualifying event, the animal must be exhibited in the commercial/crossbred division at the county qualifying event, and thus at State Fair.
  • It is recommended that exhibitors have the original paper copy of the registration paper in hand during check in at both the county event and State Fair. This is recommended practice for any animal exhibition.
  • Counties can request registration paper copies to be filed in the county office. Please work with your county to understand local requirements above the 4HOnline upload.
  • Deadlines are essential and will be strictly enforced.
  • A 4-H animal project(s) is ineligible for State Fair competition if any deadline is missed.
  • For youth who miss animal project deadlines, youth can complete the “Missed Deadline Request Form” and request to be allowed to participate in county or local events.