Skillathon boosts 4-Hers' showing experience

Crystal Stowers quietly awaited her turn as she prepared to test her livestock knowledge Monday afternoon during the Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair's Skillathon.

The Livestock Skillathon is a knowledge-based competition designed to enhance the educational experience of exhibiting at the fair by incorporating production and industry perspectives for the 4-H exhibitors.


Crystal, 14, of Westminster, shows sheep and goats during the fair and sees the Skillathon as a complementary challenge.

"It tests you on the knowledge of the parts of the animal and the feed you need to give," she said. "I like that you can learn all the different things you need for each animal and the body structure tests help you understand how your animal will be judged in market class."

Beth Hester, superintendent of the Skillathon, said contestants compete in age divisions — Clover (7 and younger) Junior (8-10), Intermediate (11-13) and Senior (14-18) — and the subject matter is tailored for each age group. Contestants test their knowledge on three species: beef, sheep and swine.

"There's no overlap of stations so no one will do the same thing twice," Hester said. "They look at pictures and identify industry terms like feed and minerals, equipment and breeds."

Hester said the stations are updated each year and first-, second- and third-place ribbons are awarded in each age group. Each age group's champion must receive a high score on all three species' tests.

"The big focus here is education," she said. "Every kid receives the correct answers when they finish the station. They learn what they got wrong before they walk out."

Caleb Chamelin, 7, of Lineboro, completed all three stations in under a half hour.

"I learned about new breeds of animals," Caleb said.

Stephanie Anthony, 12, of Taneytown, shows beef and goats during the fair.

"The Skillathon kind of helps you to get to know more about the animals that you show," Stephanie said. "It's fun because I really enjoy learning."

Carly Chaney, 11, of Littlestown, Pa., enjoyed the challenge of the contest.

"I liked that some of it was easy and some of it was harder. Cattle was easy for me because I work with them all the time. Sheep was harder because I don't know that much about them," Carly said.

Henry Brunnett, 15, of Westminster, said he enjoys the contest because it changes every year.

"I think I did better than last year," Henry said. "I like the challenge of it. It makes you think."


Kim Dixon, a Carroll County Extension educator, said this was her first year judging the Skillathon.

"It's wonderful to see the kids use the knowledge they've learned in their 4-H classes," she said. "It gives me hope for the future because most of the things they are tested on are things I wasn't tested on until junior or senior year of college. They will definitely have a leg up if they choose to go into ag science or animal science."


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