Thursday, September 15, 2016

Essential Tools for the Livestock Showman

When you show livestock, you need to be equipped with many tools. As an exhibitor, you an arsenal of feed buckets, brushes, show sticks, show sheen, halters, gate chains, extension cords, fans, blowers, and much, much more. As a parent, you should always have the right equipment to save the day. Snacks, blankets, tissues, drinks, entry fees, shot records, feeding records, chairs and a fresh change of clothes are a pretty good start (notice how sanity is not listed). This week I had my first experience at New Mexico State Fair. I came to support my students and run errands, though I mostly seemed to get in the way.

My week began early Friday morning as I watched my cooperating teacher (who was all business) load the trailer we would be taking to the fair. I should have known by looking at the tremendous amount of equipment packed into the trailer that I was going to be in for one wild ride. Yet, come Monday, I was still trying to understand why my 21-year-old body was begging me for a break. In four short days, I have learned more about pigs, cattle and students than I ever thought there was to learn. I have shared the “joys and discomforts1” of this agricultural life with both students and parents. Like the Grinch looking down at Whoville on Christmas morning, my heart has expanded as I’ve watch these youth pour everything they have into one person’s opinion. I’ve witnessed the triumphs as one of my sophomore students accomplished her career long dream of winning Grand Champion Goat. In the same breath, I’ve watched grown men cry as the hog that father and son had
diligently groomed and prepped since the day he came home from the breeder crossed scales and was over his weight limit to show. I supplied the tender, loving embrace of a mother to her child to the young man who was to exhibit that hog and tried desperately to not share in the tears he shed. Countless youth have told me that the number one reasons they show is to miss school and hang out with friends, but in moments like this I know that what drives them to be livestock exhibitors is far more than that.

If you were able to share in the experiences that I have lived in this short amount of time, you would be overcome with emotions as you recall the highs, lows and good times that have nothing to do with winning or losing. In fact, as we recall our essential tools, I believe you will agree with me that a pen, paper and camera are among the MOST essential items you could have in your show box. These items are simple and no you will not need them to groom your animal, but believe me when I say you will need them. You will need the pen to remind you that the choices you make have a lasting effect. Once you make them, you cannot erase or wipe clean what has been done. The paper is to remind you that though the pen may be permanent, you can always turn the page. It is important to not stay stuck on a page that is already full, or to dwell on mistakes that have been made. A clean sheet may seem hard to fill at first, but it has endless opportunity for creativity and growth. All you need to do is have the courage to write, be it wrong or right, the first sentence. Lastly we come to the camera to remind you to capture the memories. One year from now you will look back and marvel at how much has changed and how far you have come.

Though I am hardly an expert on livestock showing, the lessons I have learned thus far have been an invaluable part of my experience. Sharing these experiences with my students has made me feel more a vital part of their lives than any lectures I’ve ever given them in class. I hope that they continue to flourish into productive young adults and that they always remember to carry the proper equipment.

Enjoying downtime between shows with friends

Staring competition between a steer and myself during the show 
Sisters and friends prep for showtime
My students rocking it during the senior showmanship 

1 excerpt from E.M. Tiffany's FFA Creed

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