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4 Skills farm kids learn from livestock shows

4 Skills 4-H and FFA members develop in the livestock showring.

Mindy Ward, Editor, Missouri Ruralist

June 24, 2016

3 Min Read

It is the beginning of county fair season and 4-H and FFA members will be in the showring exhibiting their livestock. And with every show they are developing lifelong skills.

Still, there are many skills farm kids learn from showing livestock that sets them apart from other kids. Here are four:


1. Taking the heat. During the summer show season, it is just plain hot, literally. While many kids are at the pool, farm kids are in the barn getting their animals ready. And the heat does not let up on show day. Hot weather can make stress levels increase. However, 4-H and FFA members learn how to keep their cool. They know that the animal responds to them. Setting a calm tone is important before entering the showring. These same kids will use this skill to remain calm in heated situations at school or a job. They can set the tone for their peers.

2. Multitasking masters. Farm kids who show livestock are the ultimate multitaskers. They walk into the ring with an animal, whether by hand or halter. Then they must watch the ringman, the judge, other exhibitors and their animal. They work to display their animal using their hands, show stick or whip. When it comes to cattle and hogs, these shows have them carry a brush or comb and then use it in the ring. All while remaining focused on the task at hand--exhibiting an animal to its fullest potential. These same kids will take multitasking skills to sports teams, 4-H Clubs, FFA Chapters and school organizations and make them run smoothly. Farm kids are successful at handling more than one task at a time.

3. Listening with their eyes. There are many forms of listening in the show ring. There is hearing the ringman's instructions and listening to the judge's reasons. You can tell those who are truly honing these skills. These are the kids that look like they are in a staring contest with the judge. Their eyes fixed on the judge's eyes. One reason for that intensity is called respect. Farm kids are taught to look a judge straight in the eye and give that person the respect he or she deserves. These kids will take listening skills with them into everyday conversations as they listen and maintain eye contact signaling that the opinions of others matter.

4. Sportsmanship breeds success. There is only one winner in a livestock show, but there are many losers. Society has morphed the word "loser." Webster defines it as "a person or thing that loses or has lost something, especially a game or contest." Or "a person who accepts defeat with good or bad grace." We used to teach our children to be "gracious losers." All that meant was you did not win and do not trash talk the person that did. It was not a reflection on an individual's personality or society's status. In livestock shows, I find we still have good and bad losers. But nothing makes me more proud of farm kids than when they shake the hand of the winner. That is good sportsmanship. Learning to lose graciously is something 4-H and FFA members will take with them inside and outside of the show ring. Farm kids know that losing is a part of life, but it does not define their life.

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.

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