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Published December 04, 2012, 06:02 AM

In wake of cheating allegations, 4-H to require animal DNA tests

South Dakota 4-H has announced it will begin collecting a DNA sample from all market animals intended for division competitions at the South Dakota State Fair for the 2012-2013 program year.

By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic

There’s a fifth “H” coming to 4-H. Unlike the first four, which stand for values attributed to the head, heart, hands and health, this one represents the hair of livestock, which will now be collected for DNA testing.

South Dakota 4-H has announced it will begin collecting a DNA sample from all market animals intended for division competitions at the South Dakota State Fair for the 2012-2013 program year.

The new rule is intended to prevent cheating and protect the integrity of 4-H competitions, said 4-H Livestock Show Management Coordinator Rod Geppert, of Chamberlain.

“People that are in this show industry want us to go to DNA sampling because they suspect things like tag switching have been going on for years,” Geppert said.

Since March, South Dakota 4-H has been involved in a lawsuit with a White Lake man whose 16-year-old daughter was banned from 4-H competition for allegedly cheating.

Bayley Kroupa was banned from 4-H competition in October 2011 for allegedly showing a swine at the 2011 South Dakota State Fair that she did not take care of during the project season and that had been previously entered in a competition at the Missouri State Fair — a violation of the 4-H code of ethics.

The family denies the accusation.

Her father, Greg Kroupa, filed a lawsuit against the state 4-H office and several 4-H officials, including Geppert, alleging Bayley was denied due process.

In July, Judge Karen E. Schreier issued a preliminary injunction barring 4-H officials from interfering with Bayley’s participation in its competitions. 4-H appealed Schreier’s decision to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in August, arguing that allowing Bayley to compete will tarnish 4-H’s reputation and integrity.

Schreier denied a request by 4-H to suspend the injunction until the appeal is decided. Both parties submitted briefs to the appellate court earlier in November, but no decision has been made.

The lawsuit isn’t the only reason for the new DNA sampling rule, but it was a factor, Geppert said.

“It put us over the edge to do it,” he said.

The new rule is aimed at “a select few” that attempt to cheat at 4-H shows, Geppert said.

“If we had this in place, we could have had some checks and put the story to rest right from the get-go,” Geppert said of the lawsuit.

Perhaps another reason for DNA testing is the potentially lucrative nature of the livestock showing industry. For example, Bayley Kroupa recently showed a steer that was named grand champion of the North American International Livestock Expo in November. The steer sold for $21,000.

When county livestock weigh-ins begin in the next few months, 4-H members must now have a DNA hair sample taken of any animal they could possibly enter into the state fair, a Nov. 20 4-H news release says.

All grand and reserve champions at the fair, plus division champions and reserves, will have a DNA sample taken to be matched with the DNA samples taken at the county weigh-ins. Also, random DNA samples will be taken during the weigh-in for division competitions at the state fair.

A $6 fee per animal will be charged to 4-H members to pay for the DNA sampling.

South Dakota 4-H has considered implementing a DNA sampling process for the past four or five years, Geppert said.

Geppert expects the $6 fee will cause some heartache among 4-H members who may need to reduce the number of animals they enter into competitions to save on the cost.

“It’s an investment that will help with the integrity of the show,” Geppert said.

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