Explore the dairy industry, from raising a cow, to dairy science and ethics, to manufacturing and marketing dairy products. Cows may be owned or leased.
What can you do?
In the dairy project, you can learn about:
- Nutrition and feeding
- Desirable traits
- Stages of calving and care
- Grooming and showing
Get started with 4-H'ers in your area
- Contact your local 4-H office for more info.
Get started on your own
- Dairy information sheet - Important to read.
- Iowa 4-H Dairy Cattle Project Hot Sheet (free download)
- Dairy cow unified score sheet (free download)
- My American Farm
- Learning About Dairy Resource Manual (University of Wisconsin)
- Dairy Judging (University of Vermont)
- Project Brief: Dairy (University of Missouri)
- Buying animals for meat processing
Games and activities
- Character Connection: Dairy
- Skill-a-thon: What's that cheese? (University of Missouri)
- 4-H Business Startup Guide: Working Animals (University of Missouri)
- Dairy Jeopardy Game
- Dairy Judging
- Arrange for your class to tour a dairy farm
Find out more about your animal's breed
Deepen your project learning with these opportunities:
Join the Minnesota State Fair 4-H show committee
This is a leadership opportunity for 4-H members in grades 9 and up. Represent your fellow 4-H'ers on the livestock show committee, serving with adult volunteers.
What you'll do
- Attend two face-to-face meetings during the year as a youth representative
- Participate in two to four calls during the year
- Staff a 4-H livestock information booth the first two days of the Minnesota State Fair
How to apply
Selected applicants will be notified in September and will be invited to a state fair meeting in October. This is a one-year experience, and you can apply for a second year.
Joe Rand, Extension educator and advisor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Local livestock committees
You may be able to join your county 4-H livestock committee. Contact your local 4-H office for more information.
What does it mean to show at the fair?
For 4-H'ers, local and state showcase events (like the Minnesota State Fair) are not just fun events. They provide youth opportunities to exhibit the knowledge and skills they've gained throughout the year– and to continue their learning.
Contact your local 4-H office to learn about local livestock showcase opportunities.
Important to know
- Dairy information sheet — posted Dec. 21, 2022
- AnSci updates for 2023 — posted Dec. 21, 2022
- Animal science show requirements sheet for all species
- 4-H animal ID requirements and processes
- Cloverbuds and animals
- 2023 National Dairy Conference application form
- Livestock interviews
- See all 4-H policies
Record keeping and evaluation
- 4-H youth record keeping — Reflect on your project and what you've learned.
- Animal science project interviews evaluation - junior level
- Animal science project interviews evaluation - senior level
- General livestock judging contest evaluation with reasons
- Dairy reasons evaluation
Contact your local 4-H office for sign-up deadlines and more information about how to get started showing.
Dairy exhibits can include:
- Spring (junior), winter, fall calves
- Summer junior, spring junior, winter senior, fall senior yearlings
- Junior, senior two-year-old cows
- Three, four, five-year-old and older cows
- Dry cows
Commonly shown breeds include: Holstein (registered and grade), Brown Swiss, Red and White, Milking Shorthorn, Ayrshire, Guernsey, Jersey and Crossbreeds.
See requirements for breeds, birth dates and animal ID. These are required for all dairy shows (state and local).
Science of animals
Science of animals is designed to help 4-H animal project youth learn about the many dimensions of the industry.
Science of animals is offered in all livestock species in one of four topic areas:
- Animal health
- Exhibits do not have to be in the same species as your livestock exhibit.
- You can win a trip in science of animals and take a livestock trip to state fair.
- You can receive housing with the county livestock delegation and help with herdsmanship, herdsmanship judging, etc.
Science of animals evaluation sheet - use for county and state fairs.
Exhibit your knowledge
What is animal ID'ing?
Animal ID is a system for identifying and tracking all animals in the 4-H animal science project areas. It is important to follow the ID requirements to ensure health, safety and fairness.
See all requirement details by species and class. You must follow all of these requirements, whether you own or lease your animal.
Important ID deadlines
- Feb 15, 2023, for market beef (beef steers, market heifers and dairy steers).
- May 15, 2023, for beef, dairy, dairy goat, dog, horse, llama - alpaca, meat goat, poultry, rabbit, sheep and swine.
Find more information on the animal science ID page.
We want you to be able to learn about animals, even if you don't own one. You can lease an animal. You'll gain valuable hands-on experience managing and showing animals, and you'll learn from caring adults.
For full details, see the leasing a 4-H animal page.
The 4-H member or family must complete the 4-H animal identification process, just like owned animals. This will include verifying the leasing agreement. Read all about animal ID.
Livestock Quality Assurance training helps youth provide excellent care for their food animals and ensures a high level of food safety to consumers. We designed it to enhance the educational experience of 4-H animal science projects.
Do you hope to exhibit with 4-H at the Minnesota State Fair? All 4-H livestock exhibitors must complete livestock quality assurance training to exhibit at the state fair.
Two training options
Youth who complete either one of these training options will receive a certificate of completion.
- A three-hour in-person workshop (LQAE) including ethics. Valid for three years.
- Youth for the quality care of animals (YQCA) - A one-hour online training. Valid for one year.
For full details, see the Livestock Quality Assurance (LQA) training page.
Reviewed in 2020