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Risk Management for 4-H Youth Development Work: Large Animals—Livestock

Chad Carr, Saundra TenBroeck, Wendy DeVito, Chris Strong, Dale Pracht, and Georgene Bender

This publication is best viewed as a pdf.

This is one publication in the series Risk Management for 4-H Youth Development Work. This series is intended to provide UF/IFAS Extension county faculty, staff, volunteers, and youth with the knowledge they need to implement best practices in risk management strategies.

Our goal is to conduct educational events and activities that uphold the 4-H mission and mandates while protecting the participants, sponsors, property, finances, and goodwill and reputation of the 4-H name. The inherent risk of events and activities can be mitigated through planning and preparation. This risk management guide has been created to outline ways to prepare for and deal with the specific risks associated with your program.

Early planning is key to conducting successful events and activities. A helpful tool in this process is the Pre-Event Planning Guide and Matrix As you work through this matrix, you may have questions that are unique to your situation and might not be completely answered by the series. Extension faculty and staff will refer these questions to appropriate personnel. Questions that require time for research highlight the need for early planning.

This publication will address risks in the following six categories:

  1. Injuries to People

  2. Injuries to Animals

  3. Risk of Property Damage

  4. Biosecurity—Diseases Transmitted to Humans

  5. Biosecurity—Diseases Transmitted between Animals

  6. General Precautions


Your job as the coordinator of a youth livestock event is to ensure that 1) all people and animals stay as safe, healthy, and stress-free as possible, 2) the event is as educational as possible, and 3) no damage is inflicted upon the property.

Most people involved in youth livestock exhibition are familiar with the physical risks of handling and transporting livestock, but public spectators generally need more instruction and supervision to ensure their safety and health.

Livestock species can carry microorganisms that can cause diarrhea and flu-like symptoms in humans. These microorganisms can be shed in an animal's feces and saliva. Organisms of concern, such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli, can also survive on an animal's hide or surroundings. These pathogens can cause significant illness, especially in very young, very old, or immunocompromised attendees. All attendees should avoid hand-to-mouth contact after touching animals until their hands can be thoroughly washed. It is prudent to post sanitation reminder signs and provide hand wash or sanitizer stations whenever possible.

Livestock exhibition is a fairly small component of American animal agriculture, but it is the most visible teaching tool for the public. This increased level of exposure has its risks. If a foreign animal disease such as foot-and-mouth disease enters the US, it would be catastrophic to domestic animal agriculture. Public livestock exhibitions would be one of the first casualties of animal disease. States have taken measures to prevent the entry of livestock diseases that have been eliminated from their herds, such as brucellosis, tuberculosis, and pseudorabies, by setting requirements for arriving animals. These requirements should be met to continue the traditions of livestock exhibitions.

Additional concerns not accounted for within the above categories are weather extremes, disgruntled exhibitors and/or family members, and protestors—all of which are addressed under the heading of General Precautions in the table.


American Income Life1 (AIL, accident insurance should be secured as it is for any other 4-H event. In addition, most facilities will require liability insurance to be purchased for the event. State facilities will likely be covered under the State of Florida umbrella policy. County and private facilities often require proof of a $1 million liability policy. For more information, refer to Risk Management for 4-H Youth Development Work: Insurance (Pracht et al. 2010) and Florida 4-H Policies (

Additional liability insurance can be purchased from companies1 such as K&K Insurance (, Advantage Equine Agency (, and Francis L. Dean & Associates (

1 Insurance companies listed here are not an endorsement by UF/IFAS Extension or Florida 4-H, nor are event planners limited to working with only these companies. The insurance providers are listed as examples of companies that specialize in sport, recreation, and/or animal event insurance.

Appendix Tables

The following tables list a variety of potential risks and suggestions regarding risk prevention or mitigation. Obviously, not all potential risks are listed because it is impossible to foresee all potential situations, especially when animals are involved. The average risk level for each group of risks is shown on a chart from the Pre-Event Planning Matrix document ( The majority of the risks listed could result in anything from very minor to severe injuries to death. The chart reflects the level of injury most likely to occur. As a reminder, the key to the matrix headers follows.



Levels of Severity

I. Could result in death.

II. Could result in severe injury, major property damage, significant financial loss, and/or negative publicity for the organization and/or institution.

III. Could result in minor injury, illness, property damage, financial loss, and/or negative publicity for the organization and/or institution.

IV. Hazard presents a minimal threat to safety, health, and well-being of participants.

Probability That Something Will Go Wrong

A. Likely to occur immediately or in a short period of time; expected to occur frequently.

B. Probably will occur in time.

C. Could occur in time.

D. Unlikely to occur.

Please note that that the suggestions given on how to prevent and/or mitigate the risks listed are not official 4-H policy ( They are simply best practices you might consider as you tailor your own risk management plans.


Creating a risk management plan for youth livestock events does not mean you will identify every possible risk. Studying the examples in the tables and completing your own risk plans encourages you to slow down and think about various situations that may arise and ways to mitigate the associated risks. After completing due diligence when planning educational events and activities, you will find that the benefits of youth programming almost always outweigh the risks.


2016 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Exhibitor Handbook. 2015. Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Accessed November 2015.

Carr, C. C., J. D. Crosswhite, J. Shike, and H. Shultz. 2011. Conducting a Successful Livestock Show for Youth. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Accessed November 2015.

Carr, C. C. and J. D. Crosswhite. 2011. Best Practice Checklist for Management of a Swine Show for Youth. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Accessed November 2015.

Florida 4-H. 2010. "Pre-Event Planning Guide and Matrix." Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Accessed November 2015.

International Association of Fairs and Expositions. 2014. "National Code of Show Ring Ethics." Accessed November 2015.

National Pork Board. 2013. "Swine Health Recommendations: Organizers of Exhibitions and Sales." National Pork Board. Accessed November 2015

Nold, R., D. R. Smith, and M. C. Brumm. 2004. "Preventing the Spread of Animal Diseases — Applications for Youth Livestock Shows." U. of Nebraska Extension. Accessed November 2015.

Pracht, D., M. Norman, K. Fogarty, and J. Hink. 2010. Risk Management for 4-H Youth Development Work: Insurance. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Accessed November 2015.

Additional Information Can Be Found at the Following Websites

Kansas State Youth Livestock Safety project

Cornell Extension


Table 1. 

Injuries to people.


Prevention or Mitigation

Risk Level

From Cattle

Cattle could trample, drag, butt, knock down, mash, or kick exhibitors or spectators, which could result in everything from concussions, breaks, and sprains to cuts, bruises, and abrasions.

All facilities should have animal and exhibitor only areas and public access areas and alleyways. All livestock barn employees and volunteers should receive training on how to minimize chances for injury to the public and signage should be used to document where only exhibitors and livestock should be allowed

Animal should be appropriate for exhibitor's physical size, stature, age, training, and disposition.

There should be zero tolerance for cattle with poor dispositions or inadequate or ineffective halter-breaking. Unmanageable cattle that pose a safety risk should not be allowed to exhibit.

All yearling or older bulls must be led with a nose-lead.

Exhibitors and ring help should be familiar with basic livestock handling safety measures, learn to recognize "red flag" livestock behaviors, and notice environmental factors that could startle the cattle. Prior to their class, exhibitors should familiarize cattle with the show ring.

Exhibitors should wear closed-toed shoes and avoid rings and loose jewelry that could snag on equipment. Long hair should be kept out of their eyes.

See this publication for more general suggestions for show management:

Only one (1) person per animal is permitted in the show arena during the exhibition of individual classes. Exceptions can be made in the following situations (with prior approval from show management):

a) A handler has a physical or mental disability that prevents the proper handling of the animal without assistance, or

b) a handler has a physical injury (sprained ankle, broken arm, etc.) and requires assistance.


From Sheep, Goats, or Hogs

Sheep or goats would predominantly cause injury from the waist and/or knees down. They could butt, knock down, or mash exhibitors or spectators, which could result in everything from concussions, breaks, and sprains to cuts, bruises, and abrasions.

Pigs could inflict any of these injuries in addition to bites during a hog fight.

All of the above cattle guidelines also apply to the handling of sheep, goats, and hogs.

For led species, animal should be appropriate for exhibitor's physical size, stature, age, training, and disposition.

Pig exhibitors should have trained pigs at home sufficiently to prevent them from running in the make-up area or show ring.

For hogs—all ring workers or board handlers should receive training on pig handling and welfare prior to the start of the show. They should know how to properly use a hog board, where workers should place themselves in a hog fight, and how to move pigs in a desired direction.

Exhibitors should never put their hand in a hog fight. Instead, they should step back to avoid injury and alert the ring help or board men.

See this publication for more suggestions specific to pigs:


During Loading, Unloading, and Transportation

All of the previously mentioned injuries from livestock could occur in addition to injuries associated with loading and unloading, such as back strains (sheep and goats) and hand injuries caused by doors and latches.

Practice loading and unloading livestock prior to transportation.

Check the floors and walls of the trailer for sharp protrusions and loose boards.

Handle doors and latches carefully. Be aware of where others are when closing doors and latches.


From the Surroundings

Individuals can sustain sprains, bruises, and breaks from slipping on wet surfaces, stepping on uneven ground, rubbing against rough surfaces, and having feet caught in cords or hoses.

Additional injuries could include bee or wasp stings, heat stress, and falls from bleachers.

Mark and enforce public access areas.

Inspect grounds for loose boards, holes, sharp edges, etc. Inspect for holes hidden in grass.

Keep equipment, hoses, and electric cords off the ground and stored neatly.

Know what emergency equipment is available, where it is, and who has approval to use it (fire extinguishers, AEDs, first aid kits).

Have a cool place available with access to plenty of water for individuals who might develop heat stress.

Check that bleachers are safe. Also, note weak trees and branches and trim accordingly.


Injuries in vehicles

Range of injuries from vehicle accidents.

Injuries from small vehicle accidents (golf carts, mopeds, bikes, skateboards)

15 passenger van drivers need to be certified. Drivers of any vehicle need to have valid license and insurance (

Parents can transport their youth to events. If youth are being transported by volunteers, adults who aren't their parent/guardian, or UF faculty or staff, the two-deep leadership policy must be followed (

It is a best practice to avoid riding in open pick-ups. Operators of motor vehicles (golf carts, mopeds, etc.) should have a valid driver's license.

No skateboards, bikes, mopeds, golf carts, etc. around horses.

Table 2. 

Injuries to animals.


Prevention or Mitigation

Risk Level

From Other Animals/Themselves

Injuries could include cuts, scrapes, contusions from kicks, bites, and/or fatigued pig syndrome.

Pay attention to livestock behavior to anticipate when an animal may become aggressive or defensive.

To prevent problems—dogs should not be allowed on the show grounds unless they are service dogs.

See this publication for more information on hog handling and fatigued pigs:


Injuries from Facility

Exhibitors should be cognizant of flooring and lighting changes to help prevent livestock falls and reduce stressors.

All livestock areas should have sawdust, wood chips, dirt, or indoor-outdoor carpet for footing.

See this publication for more general suggestions for show management:


From People

It is the responsibility of all exhibitors to provide proper and humane care and treatment to animals.

All exhibitors and fair personnel should receive training so they are aware of what counts as cruelty to livestock.

There is a zero-tolerance policy for livestock cruelty and unethical behavior. Any individual confirmed to have violated any policy is subject to disqualification and expulsion. These guidelines were adapted from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo:

The following actions constitute cruelty: an egregious animal welfare violation or abandonment of an animal; failure to provide food, care, and shelter; transport or confinement of an animal in a cruel manner; killing, serious injury, or poisoning of an animal; provocation of an animal to fight with another; tripping of an animal; injury of an animal belonging to another person; serious overwork of an animal.

Additionally, all individuals associated with this event must uphold the International Association of Fairs and Expositions National Code of Show Ring Ethics.


Exhibitors are predominantly accountable for animal security and restraint during public display hours.

Event security will ensure animals remain penned or tied (not let loose) during the evening.

Table 3. 

Risk of property damage.


Prevention or Mitigation

Risk Level

Facility/Personal Property Damage by People

This includes broken or damaged facilities, vandalism, and/or lack of adequate cleanup.

Advertise clear rules about the use of generators, proper ways to hang buckets and/or fans, and decoration methods for pens and beds that do not damage facilities.

Clear expectations should be communicated to exhibitors about upkeep during their stay and cleanup after the show.


Facility/Personal Property Damage by Livestock

Includes broken or damaged facilities.

Exhibitors are predominantly accountable for animal security and restraint during public display hours.

Event security will ensure animals remain penned or tied (not let loose) during the non-show hours when exhibitors are not available.

Table 4. 

Biosecurity (diseases transmitted to humans from animals).


Prevention or Mitigation

Risk Level

Bacterial Illness

Healthy livestock can harbor Salmonella and Shiga toxin, causing E. coli in their manure, on their hide or environment, or on dirty equipment, which can result in human illness.

Frequent hand washing with soap while being around livestock, especially before eating, helps prevent bacterial illness.

Use hand sanitizers if soap and water are not immediately accessible.

Do not allow children to put their hands or objects (such as pacifiers) in their mouths while interacting with animals.


Viral Illness

Sick livestock can spread influenza virus to humans.

Frequent hand washing with soap while being around livestock, especially before eating, helps prevent viral illness.

Use hand sanitizers if soap and water are not immediately accessible.

Table 5. 

Biosecurity (diseases transmitted from animals to animals).


Prevention or Mitigation

Risk Level

Bacterial and/or viral illness of livestock species

Event organizers should check if there are current outbreaks and gathering or travel restrictions set by the state veterinarian.

All breeding animals should be required to have a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection which generally is valid for 30 days.

To encourage post-show flexibility, show management are encouraged to require a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection of market animals as well.

Animals should be current on all vaccinations.

Be aware of animals showing signs of illness (non-clear nasal discharge, fever, lethargy) and do not transport if they are symptomatic.

Any animal with clinical signs of a contagious disease should not be allowed to be unloaded at the event.

If animals display clinical illness at the event, they should be isolated from the others.

For more information about biosecurity and livestock shows, refer to this resource from the University of Nebraska:

Pigs, especially, can be vectors of numerous communicable diseases. Because pigs are not haltered, there is more opportunity for nose-to-nose contact. For more information about pig biosecurity at exhibitions, refer to this document by the American Association of Swine Practitioners:

Table 6. 

General precautions.


Prevention or Mitigation

Risk Level

Severe Weather

Extreme weather conditions, such as strong storms, lightning, or natural disasters, can damage property and injure animals and people.

Have a severe weather policy in effect that specifies when to halt activities due to heavy rain, lightning, wind, darkness, etc.

Event managers and workers should know who has the authority to set the policy actions in motion.

Monitor progress of storms online and be prepared to act.

Make decisions to cancel events at a time when participants will not already be traveling in unsafe conditions.

Similarly, send participants home with time to travel before dangerous conditions begin.


Difficult people and/or protesters can have an economic or personal impact on the event.

A predetermined spokesperson will deal with the public and potential protestors.

A predetermined individual will deal with any disgruntled exhibitors.

If efforts to calm the individuals fail, and the disgruntled parties are causing a disturbance to the others, there should be a plan in place to ask the people or parties to leave.


Publication #AN321

Release Date:March 13th, 2019

Reviewed At:January 13th, 2022

Related Experts

Carr, Chad


University of Florida

Bender, Georgene


University of Florida

Pracht, Dale


University of Florida

Tenbroeck, Saundra H.


University of Florida

Related Topics

  • Critical Issue: Youth
Fact Sheet

About this Publication

This document is AN321, one of a series of the Animal Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 2015. Revised January 2019. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Chad Carr, associate professor, Department of Animal Sciences; Saundra TenBroeck, associate professor, Department of Animal Sciences; Wendy DeVito, Youth Programs coordinator, Department of Animal Sciences; Chris Strong, Youth Programs coordinator, Department of Animal Sciences; Dale Pracht, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; and Georgene Bender, Regional Specialized 4-H Youth agent III; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


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