4-H and FFA members work hard to ensure animals are ready for summer fairs and shows.

Summer is fast-approaching, and for many 4-H and National FFA Organization (FFA) members, that means it’s time to get their livestock ready for fairs and the shows that accompany them.

To prepare animals for summer 4-H and FFA shows, students must train them to perform as desired in the ring, and it’s important for students to practice with their livestock regularly. Additionally, students should work to ensure they are working as a team with their animals, which will make the animals more comfortable and likely result in a better showing experience when the time comes.

For example, 4-H and FFA members showing cattle should teach them to lead – first in a small area, then in a larger space – and they should ensure the cattle respect the halter. Cattle should also be trained to stand correctly, with their front feet in line with their shoulders their and back feet following suit, and they should be on a feeding program that results in a fit, healthy animal.

Animals’ coats should be healthy and well-maintained, too. Experts say many judges prefer cattle to have “fluffy” hair, and to achieve this look, students should condition the animals’ coats regularly and comb their hair often.

However, there is a significant difference in hair types in animals and the grooming practices for heifers and steers vary vastly between breeds. The biggest difference is between the long-haired British and European breeds and the American or Brahman influenced short-haired breeds.

Long-haired breeds usually show with the hair combed/brushed up while the short-haired breeds are shown with the hair brushed down for a slick, more natural appearance.

On competition day, animals should be clean and free of manure or stains on their skin and hair, and their stalls or pens should be clean and tidy. Livestock also need plenty of food and water and should be kept in a well-ventilated area, particularly during times of high heat and humidity.

Learn more about agricultural education and agricultural youth organizations including FFA and 4-H, and find out how you can help prepare the next generation to serve as leaders in agriculture.