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4-H Animal Science Everywhere: That's My Apple


June 10, 2020 -

Skill Level:

Beginner to intermediate

Life Skills:

Communication, record-keeping, decision-making and problem-solving


A room with chairs arranged in a half circle and a table in front


20–30 minutes


  • Apples of similar size and color (one per participant)
  • Basket or box
  • Notebook paper (one sheet per participant)
  • Pencil or pen (one per participant)
  • Two or three large markers of different colors
  • Flipchart or other large paper such as a poster board or three lengths of parchment paper
  • Easel or open wall space
  • Masking tape
  • Stopwatch or clock with second hand (or digital equivalent)
  • Hand-washing facilities or hand sanitizer (optional)
  • Paper towels (optional)
  • “General Information About Animal Identification” resource sheet (one per participant, optional)
  • Recent news articles related to animal identification and traceability (optional)


The Importance of Animal Identification – That’s MY Apple! is designed to help young people learn about the basic requirements for animal identification. In the interactive lesson, participants will also learn the importance of proper animal identification while reviewing state and federal requirements.


After completing this activity, participants will be able to:

  • Identify and document the appearance and characteristics of objects such as apples and animals.
  • Discuss the benefits to agricultural producers, government agencies and consumers of being able to identify and track the movements of individual market animals such as cattle, sheep and swine.
  • Explain the general and species-specific identification requirements (such as tagging and ear notching) for cattle, sheep, and hogs.


Before the meeting:

  1. Read the activity instructions and gather the supplies you will need.
  2. Draw a large cow ear (similar to this one) on a sheet of flipchart paper. Display it where everyone will be able to see it, but keep it covered until the appropriate point in the activity.
  3. Set all of the apples on the table (or hard surface) at the front of the room.
  4. Write the following definition of “scrapie” on flipchart paper and keep it covered until the appropriate point in the lesson. Scrapie is a fatal disease of sheep and goats. It attacks an affected animal’s nervous system and eventually robs it of muscle control. There is no known treatment or vaccination against scrapie.
  5. Consider searching online and printing off one or more news articles relating to animal identification and traceability. Search for terms such as “bovine tuberculosis,” “bovine TB,” “scrapie,” “porcine epidemic diarrhea virus,” “PEDv,” “influenza viruses” and “zoonotic diseases.”

During the meeting:

  1. Direct the participants to chairs as they arrive. Pass out pencils or pens and notebook paper to each person.
  2. Read aloud or paraphrase the following: Today we’re going to play a game called “That’s MY Apple!” with apples that will help us learn how to properly identify livestock (such as cattle, sheep and goats, and hogs). We’ll also learn what our county fair, state and federal livestock ID requirements are and why livestock need to be identified and tracked this way. 
  3. Ask the group why it’s important to be able to tell one animal from another. (To make sure we have the right animals on our farms; to keep track of which animals have been bred and when, and when the females are due to deliver; to keep track of sick animals.) Record their answers on the flipchart paper and display the sheet where everyone can see it.
  4. Tell the group that now it’s time to play the game. Give them a few minutes to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer, then have them gather around the table where the apples are displayed.
  5. Tell them you’re going to give each person an apple. They can look at and touch their apples, but they can’t eat it or puncture it in any way.
  6. Have the group return to their seats with their apples. Ask them to write their names on their papers. Now tell them they will have 4 minutes to draw or write a description of their apples on notebook paper. Keep track of the time so that participants only have 4 minutes to work.
  7. Move around the room as the participants work, answering any questions that may come up. Give the group a 1-minute warning. After 4 minutes, or when everyone seems to have finished, have a volunteer collect all of the apples in a basket or box, then (gently!) spread them out on the table at the front of the room.
  8. Next, tell the group they’re going to take turns retrieving their apples from the table. Encourage them to refer to their notes or drawings if they need help identifying their apples. Have about four participants at a time come up to find and take their apples back to their seats. Once everyone has an apple, ask whether they all have their own apples.
  9. Have any participants who haven’t found their own apples take turns looking for their apples by walking around the group and looking at every apple until they think they’ve found their own. When group members are confident that they’ve found the right apples, ask for volunteers to explain what helped them identify their apples. Write their responses on flipchart paper and display the list where everyone can see it.
  10. Collect the apples again and spread them out on the table at the front of the room.
  11. Next have the participants pass their apple identification sheets to the person on their left. Tell them they’ll have 1 minute to read the notes. (Note: You may need to help younger or less-skilled readers in the group read the notes.)
  12. After 60 seconds, tell the group to turn the apple identification papers face down. Have four participants come up to the table to search for the apple they just read about. Once a participant has found the correct apple, have the person sit down and another person come up to search.
  13. When all of the participants think they’ve found the right apples, have them take turns asking the person whose notes they used whether they’ve found that person’s original apple. If they have the wrong apple, have both participants work together to find the correct apple. When all of the apples are back with their original owners, have the group wash their hands again, and tell them they may eat their apples.
  14. While the participants are eating their apples, ask the group the following questions. You may want to record their answers on flipchart paper for them to refer to later.
    1. What did it feel like to not be able to find your apple?
    2. What did it feel like to rely on someone else’s description to find their apple?
    3. What changed in your ability to select the correct apple? Was it easier or harder to find someone else’s apple than it was to find your own? Why?
    4. Why are detailed descriptions of objects and animals important?
    5. If you were told to describe and then find another apple, how would your description and search methods change?
    6. How is being able to find a particular apple similar to finding or identifying a particular animal?
    7. What methods do we use to help identify animals?
    8. Why is it important to accurately identify animals?
  15. Now tell the group that they’re going to find out about how livestock producers identify and mark their animals, starting with cattle. Read aloud or paraphrase the Introduction to and the “General Methods section of the General Information About Animal Identification” resource sheet.
  16. Display the flipchart sheet with the drawing of the cow ear where the whole group can see it. Ask for two or three volunteers to come up and put an X on the spot on the ear where they think a radiofrequency identification (RFID) tag should be placed.
  17. Use a different colored marker to indicate the correct location on the ear to place an RFID tag (see fig. 1 on the resource sheet if you’re not sure). Ask the participants why they think the tag would go there. (It’s a relatively secure, consistent spot for all cattle handlers to look for such a tag, it won’t impair the growth of a young animal’s ear, a tag placed there would be visible from a distance and could be read easily by a scanning device.)
  18. Now read aloud or paraphrase the Special Mandatory Requirements for Cattle section of the resource sheet and answer any questions the group may have about the information. If the participants are specie specific, consider adding current news articles to strengthen the discussion.
  19. Explain that now you’re going to discuss the specifics of sheep and goat identification. Start by asking for volunteers to answer the question “What is scrapie?” (You may want to record their answers on flipchart paper.) After everyone has answered who wants to, uncover the flipchart sheet with the definition of “scrapie” on it and discuss it with the participants. Answer any questions about the disease and its treatment that they may have.
  20. Next ask the group what it is about a disease like scrapie that makes it so important to tag sheep and goats for it. (There is no vaccination or treatment for scrapie, and it’s always fatal. Tagging sheep and goats allows producers and veterinarians to identify and trace animals that may have been exposed to scrapie so they can be removed from a flock.)
  21. Explain the important concepts of “traceability,” which means knowing where diseased, exposed and at-risk animals are and where they have been, and “disease eradication,” which means taking measures to identify and remove infected and susceptible animals from the population. Tell the group that over the last several years, great progress has been made in eradicating (wiping out) scrapie through the process of identifying and removing infected sheep as well as DNA testing to identify and remove the most susceptible sheep that lack genetic resistance.
  22. Next, read aloud or paraphrase the information about identification requirements for sheep found in the Special Mandatory Requirements for Sheep section of the resource sheet, then lead a discussion of it and answer any questions the group may have.
  23. Explain to the group that starting in 2014, hogs being exhibited at a show or fair must have official identification. For registered pigs, that just means remembering to bring the animal’s registration paper for inspection at check-in. Crossbred or nonregistered pigs must have official ear tags. Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) staff will work with fairs to explain these requirements and make tags available.
  24. Read aloud or paraphrase the Official Ear Tag, Tattoo or Ear Notching for Swine section of the resource sheet, then lead a discussion of it and answer any questions the group may have. (Note: You’ll find more information about ear notching in the Youth PQA plus: Our responsibility: Our Promise: Youth Manual [National Pork Board, 2007]. For more information about what makes a swine tag official, contact the MDARD Animal Industry Division at 800-292-3939.)


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