Let’s All Go to the Shows!
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By now, you have likely heard the news. The 2016 Lee Regional Fair is here! This year the fair theme is “Let’s All Go to the Fair!” and I encourage you while you are there to visit the shows too! What shows am I talking about? Why the livestock shows of course, which kick off tonight.
You may be asking yourself, what is a livestock show, and why would it interest me? Well, I’m glad you asked. These shows are an opportunity for young people to develop a variety of important life skills, which will shape their futures and develop them into the next generation of leaders. These are skills which cannot be taught in a classroom, but are essential in everyday life. First, showing livestock teaches responsibility. Youth who compete in livestock shows must care for their animal every day. Not only must animals be cleaned and fed daily, they must be worked with. In order to be shown in the ring, animals must be halter broken. This requires daily attention, getting the animal accustomed to being led on a halter and exposing the animal unfamiliar situations in order to prepare for the lights and sounds that they will experience at the fair. Show animals must also be groomed and clipped perfectly to stand out in the crowd and bring home the blue ribbon.
Next, raising livestock teaches record keeping, math, and other skills through hands on experience. Livestock must be vaccinated, and youth are responsible for administering vaccines properly and on time. This requires careful record keeping. Feed must be top quality in order to bring a prize winning animal to the show. Competitors will test feed and hay sources, and check their math, to make sure they are feeding the optimum amount of protein and carbohydrates. This requires the knowledge of biology to understand what an animal needs in their diet in order to put on muscle and fat at the right proportion to win.
The learning doesn’t stop in the barn either. After working their animals, youth must hit the books to be prepared for an array of questions that they may be asked by the judge. They must have a full understanding of anatomy to understand and answer questions. They must also be able to describe where on the animal cuts of meat are processed from. They may even be asked about the history of the breed they are showing. Knowing and understanding all of these aspects often translate into the difference between going on with a big cash prize and a ribbon or leaving empty handed.
Tonight will be the first of our livestock shows with the goat show. As part of the Carolina Farm Credit Circuit, youth from all throughout the region will be present to show off their goats, which they have been working with for quite some time now, many since last year’s show. Tomorrow, come back out and see the cattle show, where heifers and steers will be led into the ring. When you visit the fair, be sure to come out and support all of the hard work that these youths have put into their show projects, and watch as they compete for some big prize money! Competitors will be judged during the showmanship classes, where professionalism and knowledge are put to the test. Animals will be judged during the market classes, where hard work to raise the best animal will pay off. Come on out and enjoy the show!
If you have questions about how to get your child involved in showing livestock, give us a call at 919-775-5624.
Zack Taylor is the Agriculture Agent – Field Crops and Livestock, for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.