The great thing about this sport that we call “showing livestock,” is that it is in so many ways comparable to most youth activity out there, in that it requires hard work, perseverance and a passion for the game, in order to achieve success. Sure, livestock shows look a little different than your average little league T-ball or soccer game, but there are too many similarities to discount their comparison. At the end of the day, how you do anything is how you do everything. And showing livestock is a tool to teach this principle to our youth.
To give an example, there was a time when a young high schooler decided that he was going to run cross country. Neither his parents, nor his brothers had ever been interested in the sport, and there was no push from anyone that he was close to to join the team. But, nonetheless it was something that he wanted to do. Over time he proved to his coach and his teammates that he wanted to be as good as possible. He showed up early to every practice and stretched twice as long as the other runners. He ran his mileage that was assigned and then ran extra cool downs to work out his lactic acid infused muscles. Every practice was the same, and on race days he would run extra miles to get in extra workouts that weren’t even assigned by his coach. He had no motivation from his parents or his teammates, but he was literally going the extra mile day in and day out to get to where he wanted to be. He showed his coach that he wanted to get better by his actions and his passion and drive for success rubbed off directly on his teammates. That year he took his team, which had 3 first year runners on it, to state!
Similarly, there was a showman that had had a lamb, a goat, or a pig whip in his hand ever since he was a toddler. Each year it was the same routine, his parents would buy the animals, he would spend some time training them to show and when he placed average at the end of the year, the cycle would repeat itself. This happened every year until one day, in western Oklahoma, a very wise and witty sheep breeder asked this boy to pick out the lamb that HE wanted to take home; not his parents. Having never picked out his own animal, the boy was in shock and didn’t know the first thing to do. He looked through pen after pen of lambs until he finally landed on the one that he wanted. Truth be told, that day he took home a very average sheep that probably did not have any more of a shot at winning than any other lambs that he had on feed, but he was able to see its potential. He was able to see the change. He was able to fall in love with the process of making that animal better, any way that he could. And so his love for the sheep industry began.
These are two true stories about a friend of mine that I grew up with. He is a walking testament of the change that ownership can have on a young person's life. Just like he took ownership of his decision to join the cross country team and to take home that sheep, we often take for granted that the biggest lesson that this industry can teach us is how to take care of a living specimen that is no one else's but yours. It takes a passion for the animal you have in your barn to truly experience the kind of successes that this industry has to offer. It takes a vision, and love deep enough to set your personal comforts aside, to get the most out of this experience and improve the quality of livestock in your barn. If you follow these steps you will truly fall in love with the process.