Dakota Farmer

Sharing my experiences as a part of Little I.

Sarah McNaughton, Editor, Dakota Farmer

February 24, 2021

5 Min Read
Sarah McNaughton participates in her fourth and final year in the Little International show
LOOKING BACK: Here I’m participating in my fourth and final year in the Little International show. Photos by Sarah McNaughton

If you’re involved in the livestock industry or agriculture programming at NDSU, you’ve probably heard of Saddle and Sirloin and the Little International livestock show.

I have a deep love and passion for Saddle and Sirloin, especially for Little I. When I was growing up as a Grand Forks County 4-H’er, our crops judging team always went to the Little I crops contest. Having no real idea what the show was about, I remember sitting in Shepperd arena with my fellow 4-H’ers and FFA participants in a sea of blue jackets mesmerized by the streamers, energy in the arena and the smell of livestock in the air.

Fast-forward a few years, and I found myself sitting in the bleachers of Shepperd Arena as a freshman animal science student. S/S, as it is called by members and students, is the largest student organization on campus. As an 18-year-old freshman, it was intimidating to walk into this arena full of so many people on Wednesday nights, but it didn’t take long to meet some of the best people and friends during my time there. Every Wednesday we would all ask, “How many days?” and wait for the Little I manager to give us the countdown to the biggest event of the year.

A sheep?

To receive your animals for the Little I show, the registration link drops at 10 p.m., and everyone in the club said you set an alarm and register right at 10 to get the animal you want. I wanted to make sure I got my top choice, so I set my alarm and had my phone and computer ready and waiting to sign up for my beef heifer.

The 89th Little I show, the one and only time Sarah McNaughton ever showed sheep.

I thought something must’ve gone wrong when animal assignments came out, because I was given a Dorset lamb. At the time I couldn’t believe that people show animals without a halter, and I already was anticipating the moment my sheep would get away during the show.

Fast-forward to the first time we worked our animals, and my sheep refused to walk around the arena, and simply flopped down in the chips. After hours and hours of carding wool, practicing walking around the arena and shearing, show day finally came. Looking back now, I realize how my first fit job was lacking. But at the time, I was so excited of how we had come, and that she didn’t run free during the show. I can’t say I love showing sheep today, but I always remember those weeks of working with my lamb fondly.

Switching to dairy heifers

The next year I had my sights set on showing a dairy heifer. You have more time to fit and work with your animal, and more importantly, I had a halter on my animal. I again had my alarms set for 10 p.m. and signed up immediately. This time I got what I wanted. I was just hoping for a mostly black heifer. I got the email that included my heifer’s ear tag and set out to the North Dakota State University dairy barn.

One by one, we were handed our halters. I kept checking ear tags of the darkest heifers hoping one would be mine. After getting through most of the heifers, I finally find No. 2809 — a nearly solid white Holstein heifer who’s ear tag name read “M&M.”

I went through at least a gallon of White ’N Brite shampoo to get M&M clean enough for the show. Four weeks came and went, with new clipping, washing and leading experiences filling my time, and then it was show day. Even with her crooked topline and manure stains on her knees I couldn’t scrub out, somehow, I won top novice in my class and advanced to the overall dairy show.

For three years I showed Holstein heifers in Little I and improved with each heifer I received. The second year I again showed dairy, and even carried in the North Dakota state flag in the opening ceremonies on my barrel horse Cisco. That year I won third-place showman in my class to make it into overall dairy. My final Little I experience, I won second-place showman to make it into overall dairy showmanship. I’m an extremely competitive person, so the third- and second-place wins weren’t my goal, but I was always happy to just make it into the overall class.

Everyone I showed with were some of the best people I met through S/S, as they helped me learn how to clip and perfect a topline, shared how to best set up my heifers, and were the ones who helped me pin my competitor number on before walking into the ring. I finally got my mostly black heifer my final year, and felt confident in my fitting abilities without the help of White ’N Brite. I can look back at her topline and fit job, feeling satisfied in my work.

Back in stands

Since I graduated from NDSU, I’ve still made it back each year to be involved in the excitement of Little I. Conducting interviews with the show manager, guiding my 4-H judging teams through contests, taking photos of a show that nearly didn’t happen and always partaking in post-show celebrations at Chubs. The people I met through Saddle and Sirloin will be the friendships that last for life, and Little I will always be the most wonderful time of the year.


About the Author(s)

Sarah McNaughton

Editor, Dakota Farmer, Farm Progress

Sarah McNaughton of Bismarck, N.D., has been editor of Dakota Farmer since 2021. Before working at Farm Progress, she was an NDSU 4-H Extension agent in Cass County, N.D. Prior to that, she was a farm and ranch reporter at KFGO Radio in Fargo.

McNaughton is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a bachelor’s degree in ag communications and a master’s in Extension education and youth development.

She is involved in agriculture in both her professional and personal life, as a member of North Dakota Agri-Women, Agriculture Communicators Network Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority Alumni and Professional Women in Agri-business. As a life-long 4-H’er, she is a regular volunteer for North Dakota 4-H programs and events.

In her free time, she is an avid backpacker and hiker, and can be found most summer weekends at rodeos around the Midwest.

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