Noteworthy rule changes for showing livestock in 2016

Author: Kristy

Unfortunately there were five Ohio Department of Agriculture investigations regarding livestock exhibition in 2015, up from three in 2014. In response to these types of problems, it seems that rulebooks get a bit thicker every year with regard to showing livestock and this year there will be some notable changes.

State Veterinarian Tony Forshey recently talked about some rule changes for showing livestock at 2016 fairs.

“The Livestock Exhibition Committee met in late October and we discussed several things. One of them was drenching. We have had a lot of complaints asking why drenching is only applicable to lambs. We passed a new rule and now drenching is not allowed with any livestock unless directed by a veterinarian,” Forshey said. “Drenching applies to any substance applied in any way. It will prohibit bottle-feeding of lambs. That is crucial. These lambs really shouldn’t be on bottles at that age and weight anyway.”

There were statewide rule changes for tagging in livestock as well.

“We now also allow a family animal to be tagged in. In case one of the animals comes up lame or dies, the exhibitor can then choose from one of the family animals,” he said. “It can be tagged to the family at the exhibitor’s household address.”

There was also clarification in the rules about the use of adhesives.

“You are allowed to use hairspray because it doesn’t change the conformation in any way, it just makes the animals look better. Most of the hairspray for livestock is called adhesive. Adhesive to me is attaching something to that animal, which is not allowed, but the adhesive hairspray is allowed,” Forshey said. “Those are three of the main things we got done. These rules will be in effect in Mid-March before any of the fairs start.”

Lucinda Miller, Extension specialist for the 4-H Youth Development Companion and Small Animal Programs, said some of the details of these rule changes are already the subject of significant discussion.

“The hairspray is fine, but pigmented hairspray is not because you are altering the color. There is no coloring, whether it is hoof polish or anything,” Miller said. “Prohibited grooming practices 901-19-33 say that you cannot use any substance to enhance or change the color of the livestock, including the livestock’s hide or hooves in junior market livestock shows.”

The new drenching rules (901-19-01) are also a hot topic. By definition, drenching is the act of using an instrument (including a bottle, syringe, scoop, or your hand) placed in the animal’s mouth to orally administer a liquid, food, or any other substance.

“For 2016, fairs have the option of how ‘hard’ they enforce this mandatory rule and they need to use common sense, but fairs must completely enforce the rule in 2017. So, hopefully fair boards will be very explicit about their wording in their enforcement policy for this year,” Miller said. “We are trying to teach proper nutrition. From our standpoint, that is what we are trying to do and not allow anything unethical. I have not heard negative feedback about the rule, only positive comments from people thinking it was about time this was done. The bottom line is that people are going to find ways around this and that is what people are discussing now. Now there is concern about how it is going to be enforced. The biggest question I get from exhibitors is, ‘What do we do if we see something?’ They don’t want to tattle, but what do you do when you see someone breaking a rule?”

The answer is a pretty clear one according to John Grimes, Ohio State University Extension beef coordinator. Grimes spent much of his life around the show ring and has seen many rule changes through the years.

“I am fully vested in this and I feel like if somebody does something wrong and you see it, it is not just affecting you. It affects the whole barn. It is your responsibility as an ethical exhibitor to report that kind of stuff. You need to talk to the superintendent of the show or the veterinarian,” Grimes said. “If you see something that is legitimately breaking the rules, it is your responsibility to notify the authorities, but I don’t want to hear about something after the show. I don’t want to hear about something unless you have proof or if you didn’t care enough to do something about it when it was happening.”

When it comes to following (or enforcing) the rules, start with common sense, Grimes said.

“If you have to drench something, it should be under a vet’s supervision for a medical situation. I agree with the new rules. I don’t think a liquid diet should be a routine part of managing the weight. To me, that is the dividing line. Every county fair has a vet. You shouldn’t make your own judgments; talk to the veterinarian. That way, nobody is in trouble,” he said. “If you go to a show, the animals can get dehydrated and stressed out and sometimes they need attention. I just ran into a guy out in Denver with an Angus bull in the sale that was dehydrated and he wouldn’t eat or drink. They ended up putting some electrolytes down him, but that was under veterinary supervision and I am OK with that. If you pump them at a show to get them to look fuller, though, that’s wrong.”

Rule changes can be frustrating, but are an unfortunate necessity.

“I hate that we have to get into splitting hairs like this. If there is any question, just don’t it. To me, this is a commentary on us as parents and society. It is not just livestock shows, this happens in sports and everything else. Competition is great, but when it gets to the point that you are bending or breaking rules, then it has gotten misguided. There are always rules and people will always be trying to beat the system. Unfortunately this involves youth and that is where things can get cringe-worthy,” Grimes said. “I don’t think it’s the kids thinking these things up — it is the parents or the people selling these show animals and there is plenty of blame to go around. As I whole I do not think it is rampant or terrible, but it is out there. It is sad that we have to make these rules and do these tests and it bothers me that the priorities can get out of whack with this. What are we teaching our kids? Are we teaching them about true production livestock or what it takes to win a show?

“These animals are part of the food supply and we need to remember the bigger picture. If the only goal is to win, maybe it is time to re-check your priorities. Maybe the best way to judge whether you should or shouldn’t be doing something is to imagine if you were to explain it to a person who is not from a farm. If you are embarrassed to explain what you are doing, then maybe you’ve gone too far.”

Complete rules on livestock tampering can be found at: For more information on the rules or exhibition information or questions visit

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