You know that saying, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it matters how you play the game”? The same can be said for showing livestock.
As a kid, I showed sheep through 4-H for 10 years. I won Champion Junior Showmanship my second year, and I got a taste of how good it felt to be rewarded for working hard. I had a goal to win every year, but I didn’t always win. There’s only so much that’s within the control of the person who’s showing livestock. You and your animal must work well together. You’re also at the mercy of the livestock judge. While there are breed standards for each species that is shown in a ring, each judge also has certain personal preferences.
Bottom line: All one can do is his or her best. We can set goals and work to achieve them. We can save our money and invest it in purebred livestock to improve the quality of the meat animals in our herd. In addition to purchasing stock, we must make enough money to cover the cost of feed, bedding and vet. There are costs associated with attending the shows. It’s really a lesson in money management.
Money management, teamwork and work ethic are the “life lessons” that I wanted my kids to learn by being involved in 4-H. Honestly, working with livestock is hard. The cute and funny photos you see posted on social media don’t show the blood, sweat and tears that often happen behind the scenes of working with livestock.
Life isn’t always fair, but we must persevere. This year my daughter learned this lesson the hard way. She worked harder than she ever has with her show stock, and this is the first year she didn’t bring home a single purple ribbon or trophy. She brought home five blue ribbons, one ribbon and one white ribbon. (Purple is the best, followed by blue, red and white.) She felt like a failure, but I told her that I couldn’t be prouder of her efforts. She gave it her all, and really, that’s all I ask of her.
Luck was not on our side this year. No matter how hard one works, sometimes you just need some good luck!
We bought two young doelings (female goats) in the spring. Together she and I worked hard to teach them how to lead. We even enlisted the help of my son’s girlfriend, who shows sheep, to break those goats to lead. Those two goats never led! They stood still. They’d let my daughter “set their feet,” but they never let her lead them. Hot weather also caused them to go off feed. Try as we might, we couldn’t get these two goats in “show shape” in time for the county fair. They placed third and fourth in their class and earned blue ribbons.
We also bought two yearling Boer does, named Cake and Mercedes, as breeding stock. If you follow Enchanted Acres on Instagram or Facebook, you’re probably familiar Cake. She’s a real looker IMO, but she didn’t win the show. In fact, that didn’t even matter to me!
Cake got sick the Sunday before our county fair. Suddenly, I wasn’t concerned whether she earned a purple or a blue ribbon. I just wanted her to live. Cake lost her appetite and wasn’t even drinking as much water as she should. On show day, Cake looked gant. She didn’t strut herself in the show ring, and she got beat. She deserved to get third.
The goats that placed first and second at our county fair were quality breeding goats. They were “thick” in the thigh and hind legs, which is what you want in a meat animal. The winning goats also had a long loin and wide saddle. The kids showing those goats had obviously worked just as hard with them as my daughter had worked with Cake. Truth be told, they deserved to win. (Click here if you’re interested in learning more about judging a meat goat. Click here if you’re interested in seeing what skills youth develop from a meat goat project.)
Just as the quest for a hole in one keeps a golfer on the course, the quest for a trophy or purple ribbon keeps a 4-H’er motivated. My daughter has had a taste of winning, and she’s competitive. She’s using her perfo
rmance at the county fair to motivate her to do better when she exhibits her horse at the Iowa State Fair in August.
I admire my daughter’s determination, but what I enjoy most about her 4-H Meat Goat and Horse Projects is that it allows us to spend quality time together. We work toward a common goal to find a feeding program to get our goats ready for market, selecting show animals and preparing them for the fair. We spend lots of hours together throughout the year in the horse stables while she rides and practices for show. We log lots of windshield time traveling to shows around North Iowa and then spending weekends all year long attending shows. We’ve also made a lot of good friends along the way. And at the end of the day, none of us can have too many friends and family members in our corner!
5 Ways to “Wrap Up” Winter Fun for Your Family
December 17, 2019
Tending to Creature Comforts during Winter Weather