This fact sheet was developed by students enrolled in Purdue's ANSC 442 Sheep Management course in Spring 1998, as a semester project. These fact sheets provide useful information on various topics related to sheep. View the list of fact sheets.

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Showing Sheep as a 4-H Project

Jason Kilmer
Jamie Gardner
Tracey Ramsey

Intended Audience: The 4-H sheep project is intended for those individuals who are interested in showing sheep. There is not a need for previous sheep experience, just a willingness to learn more about sheep in general. These projects are intended to give an individual a chance to follow their special interest as well as explore new ones in the sheep industry. In the end the project will hopefully serve as a learn experience for the individual, one that can be taken away and applied in the real world. Membership is typically open to all youth ages from 5-19 who meet certain membership guidelines.

What is 4-H?

4-H is the largest youth serving organization in the world. It began in rural America but has spread to major urban centers, suburban communities, and rural non-farm settings. The fact is that all 50 states have 4-H programs and more than 80 countries worldwide are now involved in the activity. It is a project designated for both boys and girls with many different projects areas such as large or small animal, foods, clothing, wood science, horticulture etc.

4-H is not just an individual project but actually has family involvement. Typically youth are enrolled as members, but other family members are involved as club leaders, help with meetings, or head projects. Families work together to fulfill projects as they learn together.

4-H is a community affair. The community provides resources for 4-H members such as field trips or fairs.

4-H is an educational and learning experience for today’s youth.

4-H Sheep Project

In 4-H sheep project member become familiar with the many areas concerning sheep. This usually is dependent upon level of members such as beginner intermediate and advanced.

They become familiar with management, selection, production, and health of sheep.

They learn how to keep financial and performance records for management purposes.

Exhibiting sheep is a main focus including identification of major breeds, identification of parts of the sheep, and present speeches and presentations on sheep.

Plus while doing all of this they begin to explore career opportunities with sheep.

"Learning by doing"

The 4-H Pledge

I pledge by Head to clearer thinking

my Heart to greater loyalty

my hands to larger service

and my Health to better living

for my club, my community, my country and my world.

The 4-H Motto

To Make the Best Better

4-H Web Page

Contacts to Get Started

Knowing who to go to for someone that is interested in knowing more about 4-H and how to get involved in showing sheep as a 4-H project is one of the first steps that every 4-Her goes through. It is not difficult to find someone that is willing and able to help a 4-Her become involved in an organization where friendships can be made and responsibilities can be learned. The possibilities are endless as to who to visit or call. You could get in touch with your county extension office, 4-H leader, an older 4-H member, or local producers to help you learn more about the 4-H sheep project.

Your county extension office can give you information on the 4-H sheep project. A book is usually distributed and will contain a variety of information on nutrition, management, etc. for sheep. Someone will assist you in determining who your 4-H leader is for your particular township for a further reference. You can also find out how, when, and where to become involved in showing sheep as a 4-H project.

As previously mentioned, your county extension office will inform you as to who your 4-H leader is in your township. You may already know your local 4-H leader, but have never spoken with him or her about showing sheep as a 4-H project. This is the person that you become quite aquatinted with during your 4-H membership. It is the 4-H leader’s responsibility to hold monthly meetings, sign up 4-H members in their project of interest, keep the 4-Her informed about important dates, and let the 4-Her know about his or her responsibilities concerning their 4-H project.

Older 4-H members can also give a prospect 4-Her a lot of information on what is involved with showing sheep as a 4-H project. These are the people that have actively participated and have experienced what is involved with showing sheep firsthand. It is older 4-H members that can give you many tips on grooming, nutrition, and general management. These 4-Hers can also give you information on who to call and what to do to get enrolled in 4-H.

Many times one doesn’t think about turning to a local sheep producer for tips on how to find out more about showing sheep as a 4-H project. It is many of these producers that have shown sheep as a 4-H project in past years that helped them get started raising sheep. These producers often can provide a lamb for you to purchase for your 4-H project and can offer helpful advice concerning the care of your lamb.

Where to Purchase Lambs

There are two main ways to purchase you lambs private treaty and auction. Private treaty is where you go to a producers farm and purchase lambs privately. This is the best way for a new showman to purchase lambs. The producer can take time to help the 4-Her and point out what they should be looking for. Many times the producer will give the first year 4-Her a break on price. A good price on an average lamb is $100-$150 and the price goes higher for better lambs.

Auctions or Club Lamb Sales are another place for purchasing animals. The auction is fast paced and many people are biding on the animal all at the same time. It is very easy for a first year member to get lost during an auction. The price of lambs are normally higher at auctions, however the lambs are usually very good. To find where and when auctions are held ask your county extension agent.

Basic Daily Care

Now that you have your lambs bought you need to take care of them. The most basic thing to do is feed and water your lamb. When deciding what to feed go to your local feed mill there are knowledgeable people there willing to help. The easiest thing to do is feed a complete show feed ration. This way you know your lamb will be receiving a well balanced diet. Follow the directions with the feed for the amount you are to feed each day. Also get a couple bales of hay and feed each lamb a couple hand fulls each day. The single most important idem for your lamb is a good supply of fresh water. A five gallon bucket works good for supplying water and be sure you change it every day.

Getting your lamb out of the pen and exercising it is a very good idea. You need to purchase a halter to put on your lamb. Halter breaking your lamb will prove to be quite a challenge but stick with it. Walking your lamb 1-2 miles a day will help with muscle development and muscle firmness. The more you walk you lambs the more you may need to feed you don't want to get you lambs to skinny. Also be careful walking you lambs on hot days, it may be best to only do short walks on extremely hot days.

When you have your lambs out for a walk it is good to practice your showing skills. Practice walking your lamb around by holding on to its head and guiding it around. Stop and set up the lambs feet by placing the front legs straight down and the back legs slightly back form the rear not right under the lamb. The more you practice with your lamb the better you and your lamb will do on show day.

Show Day Preparation

There is a lot to do to get your lamb ready for show day. The best thing to do is start the day before the show. The equipment used on your lamb can be quite expensive so it may be best to share the cost with another member or ask a fellow 4-Her if you could borrow their equipment. The most important step in getting your lamb ready is shearing and the closer you can get to the skin the better. Because you are shearing the lamb so close you need to wash the lamb first to get the dirt and oils out so your clippers will run good. Many people use dish soap or Woolite, however livestock soap it best. After your lamb is all clean your need to dry your sheep with a towel or livestock blower. The livestock blower is best at taking the water off the lamb, however they can be very expensive. When you go to shear your lamb it is best to put it on a blocking stand. This is a stand that holds the lamb still while you work on it. It allows you to go slow and do a good job. There are many different types of clippers that can be used to shear your sheep and as mentioned above the closer to the skin you get the better. The reason for this is so the muscle can stand out and the lamb will feel hard when touched.

After your lamb is cleaned and sheared you may wish to put a blanket or sock on you lamb to keep it clean until show day. If you do not cover you lamb when done you will probable have to wash you lamb on the day of show. When you put your lamb back into the pen put some fresh bedding down so your lamb will stay clean.

On the day of show just before you go into the ring inspect you lamb for any dirt marks and clean them up. Also clean out the inside of there ears with a wet rag and be sure you wipe all of the bedding off of the lamb.

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Important Show Day Information

The day has finally come for you to exhibit all of the hard work that you have put into your 4-H sheep project. Show day is the day when you are in competition with other fellow 4-H members. Many awards are given out according to how well your animal competes against all of the other animals that have been entered. There is a lot of important information that your need to know before you step into the show ring as an exhibitor.

When the day begins, it is always important that your check what class your lamb will be showing in. After you know what class you’re in, you can usually estimate when you need to start getting your lamb prepared for the show. Next, it is always a good idea to watch some of the classes that show before you. Watching other exhibitors show will give you an idea of how to show in a show ring with a judge (it may also calm some of your nerves). It is also important to listen to all announcements that are made. These announcements will usually inform you of when to come to the make-up ring. Other information such as the judge’s comments after he is finished placing a class and final placing will also be given. Finally, it is also important to check over your lamb one final time before your proceed up to the make-up ring.

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Sale Day

Now it is time to sell your 4-H lamb. Sale day is the day when you get to exhibit your animal to many buyers that have come to purchase your animal. It is always important to make sure that your lamb is well groomed (as if it were show day). Each animal will sell at a particular time during the sale, so it is important to know the sale order for that day. Many times announcements will be make to let the 4-Hers know where they are in the sale order. You may also hear the auctioneers sell the animals, who has purchased the animals, and for how much the animal was purchased. When it is your turn to sell your lamb, the auctioneer will bid your animal up to a specific dollar amount per pound according to who is bidding on your animal. A sale will be made when your lamb is no longer being bid up. The buyer of your lamb is the last person that has bid on your animal. It is always important to remember to thank your buyer after the sale for purchasing your lamb. This also a time for you to invite the buyer back next year to the sale. Finally, every buyer always enjoys getting a hand written thank you in the mail for purchasing an animal.

Identification of sheep:

Sheep are identified in many ways in order to keep accurate records and also so they can be identified at show day. Each sheep or lamb must have health papers which provides an accurate record of a sheep’s health history. Also usually a few days before the event or the day of a sheep will be weighed in. This is another way of identification by means of weight. Other ways of identification include:

Nose prints

Ear tags


*Some sheep owners will use only one of the above while others will use a combination.