Sponsored By
Missouri Ruralist logo

New DNA collection process for market animals at state fair

The Missouri State Fair turns to the industry trend of hair follicle analysis for market livestock competition in 2024.

Mindy Ward

January 30, 2024

3 Min Read
Hogs being exhibited in a show ring
NEW RULES: It’s not just swine. All market animals exhibited at the Missouri State Fair in August will need to have a hair follicle DNA test. Mindy Ward

Missouri 4-H and FFA livestock exhibitors will need to pluck a few hairs from their animals before entering the state fair competition this year.

The Missouri State Fair announced changes to its DNA-testing methods for market animals, doing away with nose prints and blood samples and turning to hair follicle analysis. DNA collection allows the state fair to match the market animal with the exhibitor, a proof of ownership to ensure a level of trust in the competition process.

“It was time for the Missouri State Fair to make the switch and be up to date with the fair industry as a whole,” says Rhiannon Birdwell, competitive entry supervisor for the state fair.

She notes that other fairs within the region — such as Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa — no longer use nose prints or blood testing. “Everyone has been using hair follicle testing for several years,” she says.

Path to change

Discussion over a change in DNA testing started in 2023, with a committee comprised of all the livestock superintendents for the state fair.

Initially, Birdwell says the committee leaned toward pulling blood samples, a practice already done in the swine barn, but she could not find labs to accommodate the amount or type of blood samples for such a large fair.

“Most labs didn’t want just a blood card; they wanted an actual vial of blood,” she says, “and they wanted it within a certain number of hours.”

So, the committee looked at hair follicle sampling, which Birdwell says is more reliable, safe and convenient for exhibitors, FFA advisors, 4-H leaders and veterinarians.

“This is a more modernized form of DNA analysis,” she explains. “It is noninvasive, and there is more of a comprehensive detection range.”

The Missouri State Fair Commission agreed and approved the change for 2024.

Understand new sampling process

Exhibitors, family members, project leaders or veterinarians can collect the hair sample. However, agriculture teachers or Extension agents must be present and provide a signature certifying that it was taken from the entered animal in their presence, and that the animal entered is owned by the exhibitor.

Here are the instructions for pulling hair and placing it in a hair-sample envelope:

  • Pull hair with root follicles attached.

  • Hair should be dry.

  • If hair has excess dirt and debris, please brush it out if possible.

  • Do not cut the hair; the roots contain the DNA for testing.

  • Use fingers or pliers to grasp approximately 8-10 hairs close to the skin and pull.

  • Repeat until you have about 20-30 hairs with root follicles attached.

  • Place 20-30 hairs with root follicles attached in a regular No. 10 envelope. Seal envelope.

  • Clean hands or pliers before sampling another animal.

The DNA sample and collection data form must be returned to the Missouri State Fair by the agriculture instructor or Extension agent.

DNA sample deadlines

Market steers and heifers. Postmarked by March 15

Market barrows. Postmarked by May 15

Market lambs and wether goats. Postmarked by June 15

Where to pluck hairs by species

Cattle. Switch of tail, poll or neck

Goats. Coarse hair from hoof, neck or tail area

Swine. Coarse hair from body, tail area, between toes or inside ear

Sheep. Coarse hair from hoof or body area

Read more about:

Missouri State FairDNA

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like