If you give a kid livestock, they will have a new buddy.
A buddy they will feed, water and probably tie baling twine to in order to lead.
When they tie twine to their heifer, steer, lamb, or goat you will probably give them a halter.
When you give a kid a halter they will spend hours in the barn or lot – and sometimes yard – pulling, tugging, pushing (and probably riding), until they’ve taught their friend to lead.
Once they’ve taught it to lead, livestock will be constantly on their mind. They will finish their homework quickly. They will eat their breakfast in record time. They will do these things so that they can be with their stock.
And, once they’ve invested time in their livestock, a kid will want to show off their hard work. They will want to go to the stock show.
When you go to the stock show there will be entry fees, hotel reservations and weekends away from the farm. There will be tack and feed and coolers to load. There will be blocking chutes, and blowers and hair products to buy.
When you take a kid and their livestock to the stock show, they will meet other kids with livestock. When they meet other kids with livestock they will want to play with these kids and will probably disappear from the stall with that other kid right when it’s time to scoop their livestock’s poop. These kids will become lifelong friends.
While they are gone from the stall with their new lifelong friend they will see other livestock. They will see other livestock fitted by crews and families. They will hear old-timers talking about feed and the markets. They will notice the care, talent, and work that is required to make a champion.
And the kid… the kid will want a champion.
When a kid wants a champion your family will spend time together budgeting, pouring over sale catalogs and discussing your breeding program. There will be even more time spent together with the family in the barn: feeding, washing, grooming, clipping, and leading.
When you’re together at the barn you will see each other’s highs and lows. You will learn to work together. You will share about your day, your plans and you will laugh together and argue too. You will try to teach the kid (and the livestock) how to behave in the show ring, how to show with poise and confidence, even if they aren’t feeling it.
This poise and confidence will be of the utmost importance when the kid is not the champion.
When a kid is not the champion they will learn to shake the champion’s hand. To be happy for their friend that did win, to be proud of themselves for the work and the effort. When they are not the champion there will be a spark that will light the fire of a champion.
When the fire of a champion is lit… you will see change. The kid will work harder. The kid will be smoother in the show ring. The kid will know more about their animal than you do. When the kid speaks to the judge they will look him or her in the eye. The knowledge and determination will be evident.
The kid will become a champion.
When a kid becomes a champion they will get a banner, a ribbon, or trophy, and check. And the kid will be happy. And you will be happy. And proud. And the feeling of accomplishment and the love for their livestock will be the fuel that drives the kid (and you) to do it again and again, year after year, until it’s the last time.
After the last time, the fire won’t die. There may be more times. The kid may have their own show string. The kid may have their own children that show livestock. They may be the fitter, the judge, show manager, or breeder that other kids will look up to. They will understand the value of hard work. They will know how to handle pressure. They will know the origin of their food. They will be a team player and perform well on their own. They will have friends all across the country. They will understand finances, responsibility, humility, public speaking, winning and losing with grace, confidence.
All because YOU gave a kid livestock.
Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Kelly Thomas, a livestock show mom, multi-generation farmer, farm wife, former 4-H Extension Agent, county fair livestock show manager and writer.