By Kendra Waldenberger
UMN Extension Ag Intern
The Houston County Fair is taking place this week and the Minnesota State Fair is right around the corner.
4-H’ers and FFA members have been working diligently all summer preparing their animals to exhibit at shows with the hopes of winning a state fair trip at the county fair.
Raising livestock projects involve lots of early mornings, late nights, and long hours to accomplish the care these animals require. Working with livestock teaches youth several life skills and valuable lessons that will set them up for success in the future.
One lesson that most people associate with raising livestock is responsibility. The animals rely on a caretaker to provide them with the proper nutrition and daily care. Caring for show animals teaches the importance of consistency and attention to detail. Youth provide their livestock with the exact amount of feed, exercise, and grooming to ensure they are looking their best.
Growing up around livestock helps youth to build a solid foundation of values. Raising livestock gives kids a reason to wake up every morning knowing that there is another life reliant on them. Through the long hours, youth learn the value of hard work and how it helps them achieve their goals. Working and training animals teach patience as we cannot verbally communicate with them. The one-on-one time youth spend with their livestock teaches them how to be compassionate. Kids learn to respect their animals which motivate them to provide the best care possible. The relationships youth build with their livestock will help them mature and create meaningful connections with others.
Competition & Sportsmanship
The show ring can teach several life lessons and introduces youth to competition. Healthy competition teaches resilience and perseverance which prepares youth for real-life situations. Exhibiting livestock teaches kids the importance of sportsmanship. They learn at an early age how to win and lose gracefully. Aside from competing against others, showing livestock teaches youth how to be internal competitors with themselves. They focus on making their animals better than they were the day before, which challenges youth to become better versions of themselves.
It’s no secret, showing livestock is an expensive hobby. Youth raising livestock learn about investments, how to keep track of expense records, and how to finance their project for the upcoming year. These are valuable skills that most people don’t learn until adulthood. Kids involved in the financial aspect of their project will be better prepared when they enter the workforce and will be more financially stable in the future.
Not only are youth a leader to their animals, but being involved in showing livestock can present several leadership opportunities. Youth organizations and breed associations are great options for young people to become leaders, improve their experience, and grow in the industry of their involvement. In addition, several of these organizations provide youth with opportunities to learn more about their livestock projects with workshops, conferences, and conventions. A large percentage of youth who grew up showing livestock will become the agricultural leaders of the future and hold careers in agriculture.
The saying “the best part of this industry is the people” rings true to many youth exhibiting livestock. The relationships made showing livestock can be one of the greatest assets gained. Families grow closer together as they work alongside each other every day. In addition, the friendships made are built off of shared common interests and the competitive nature in the show ring. The relationships made showing livestock are lifelong and extend way past the show ring.
Showing livestock requires a lot of hard work and dedication but is rewarding in many ways. Raising livestock teaches several life skills and lessons that cannot be learned anywhere else. As youth get older, they will be thankful for those summers spent with their animals, the memories made, and the friendship that will last a lifetime.