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4-H youth learn about goats, lambs during clinic

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Chadron, Neb. – Several western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming youth found out there is more to the 4-H lamb and goat projects than the show ring. The youth took part in hands-on training recently during the Dawes County Sheep and Goat clinic in Chadron, Neb.

During the clinic, youth learned about selecting a prospect lamb or goat, proper nutrition, treating sick animals and fitting and showing their animals.

Key point

Georgia Younglove, one of the clinicians, summed up her take-home message.

“We are the caretakers of our animals,” she told the 4-H youth. “It is our job to make sure our animal stays healthy.”

“It is also our job to make sure we have the tools to do that. It is more important to keep the animal healthy than to show it,” she added.

The first part of the clinic focused on selecting lamb and goat prospects.

“The biggest lamb is not always the best lamb in the pen,” Younglove said. “We also need to look at the structure of the animal. A lamb that is 20 pounds lighter may be the better animal by fair if it’s more structurally and proportionally correctly.”

Feed resources

Feed also plays a tremendous role in the development of an animal.

“We can have all the right pieces and parts of the animal, but how that animal is fed is really important,” she explained

“Don’t spend a whole bunch of money on the animal and forget the feed. It is better to spend less on the animal and more on the feed. It is that important,” she stated.

The clinician told the young people to select a feed that is readily available because some feeds are not available in all parts of the country. Despite the bright, shiny bags, Younglove also encourages the youth to look past the package and focus on what it says on the feed tag.

“When selecting a feed, make sure it can be fed to the animal we are feeding,” she explained. “Don’t feed goat feed to lambs because the goats have different nutritional requirements.”

“A lot of feed has copper in it, which is toxic to lambs,” Younglove continued. “It is also important to select a feed that is complete, unless we intend to supplement our animals with what the feed is lacking.”

New requirements

Youth also need to be aware of the Veterinary Feed Directive Requirements (VFD), according to Younglove.

“VFD is legislation that tells us what we can feed our animals,” she explained to the children and their parents. “The feed ingredients we feed our animals have to be approved for that animal. Since the VFD was implemented, it has changed some of the ingredients used in feed.”

Nutritional balance

Younglove said lambs need protein to build muscle and grow, so she recommends selecting a feed with 17 to 18 percent protein. The lambs also need fat to build cover and finish out correctly. Ideally, the ration should contain 2.5 to five percent fat content.

The feed should also be balanced for minerals.

“If the feed is complete, it should provide everything the animal needs,” she said, “but even if it is a complete feed, there are individuals that need more mineral than what they are getting in the ration.”

If the youth feed their animals salt or mineral, Younglove recommended providing it in the loose form, so the 4-Hers know their animals are consuming it and how much they are eating.


Younglove also explained the importance of water in the animal’s diet. 

“Salt increases water consumption,” she said. “We need to make sure our animal stays hydrated.”

Animals have a stronger sense of smell than humans, so when they are forced to drink city water at the county fair, they may refuse and become dehydrated.

“If the lamb was raised on well water, they will notice the smell in city water,” she says.

Younglove offers some options. Youth can get some water from town and start the animals on it ahead of time to get them used to it.

Another option is to take water from home to the show or to start adding electrolytes to the water a few weeks before the show to help mask the smell. Gatorade and Koolaid will also work, she says, but they also need to be added to the water a few weeks before the show.

She also outlined the importance of clean water by asking one of the children to take a drink from a new bottle of water. She then offered another child a drink from the same bottle, which she politely refused. Then she added some dirt and rocks to the bottle, and the child still refused a drink.

Relating it to the lamb, Younglove explained, “If we won’t drink it, we shouldn’t expect our animals to drink it. They need clean, fresh water morning and night. It will make a huge difference in how they eat and grow.”


Younglove said hay should be limited. If show lambs consume a lot of hay, their bellies will expand, and even when the hay is cut back, they will never be where they started.

However, since sheep are ruminants, they need at least a handful of hay to aid in digestion.

Hay consumption can be monitored by observing the flank area. If the animal looks like it is cut high in the flank, it needs more hay. If it looks deep in the flank and is getting a belly, the hay may need to be cut back.

“Quantity of hay is something that may need to be adjusted constantly,” Younglove said.

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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