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Remember me…

“Guys this livestock showing is special. It’s not a hobby, I don’t care what you say, it is not a hobby. It is a way of life. And to be out here in this ring is work,” – Andrew Rash spoke these words just a few weeks ago at the Indiana State Fair Hog Show, but Austin Pullins represented these words a few weeks ago at the Athens County fair in Ohio. And a young man, Noah Cox, exemplified these words in the way he lived. This is not a hobby and to think it is, well I guess you just haven’t had the opportunity to fully understand yet.  (Photo: Raven Williams Photography) We’ve always truly believed that there was no better way of life than being raised in the livestock industry. We’ve seen it time and time again that the individuals we get to surround ourselves with at these stock shows are the people that we will surround ourselves with at all of our important life events. These stock show friends that turn into family will be there to celebrate our graduation, get to stand by us on our wedding days, and all in all become friends for a lifetime.  (Photo: Raven Williams Photography) Here recently we’ve seen a few articles and pictures pop up on our social media feeds and it reminded us that we are so blessed to be able to have the support of these people. God truly blessed this industry with some of the best…

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One thing the judge doesn’t notice – so don’t worry about it!

It’s so much easier. Way easier. It’s why so many of us fall into the trap. If I had a nicer showbox, I could fit my calf. If I had a bigger budget, I would win more lamb shows. If I had a fancier trailer, I could do better with my pigs. It’s so much easier to wish we had all these things we believe will make a difference, but when you’re in the ring, the judge sees you and your animal. And all your work at home makes a huge difference in what the judge sees that day. All the early mornings, the washing, rinsing, brushing, walking, and feeding – the judge sees all that represented in your animal in the ring. But you know what the judge doesn’t see? Ever? The trailer your barrow/lamb/steer walked off at the show. The judge also doesn’t see the truck that pulled the trailer, the showbox where you store your supplies, or how fancy your feed pans are. And yet, sometimes we obsess over these very things like they make or break our chance at a banner. Sure, if you jackpot every weekend that trailer will absolutely come in handy and you’ll really enjoy it. Yes, the showbox can make things easier to find and stay organized and at some point, you’ll likely make great use of one. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have these things. You just shouldn’t think that having those things will make your animal any better. Instead, what…

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You never know what you might find

Last week I was on a video shoot with B.J. We arrived at our destination about 20 minutes early, so rather than surprise our hosts before they were expecting us, I turned the car around and headed to a little roadside rest I remembered passing just a few miles back. It was one of those little areas alongside a state route, just a patch of gravel and a picnic table. I pulled in and parked the car, ready to check email and go over my notes for the shoot once more. But then I saw a little marker off to the side of the parking area. It looked like a memorial marker and I could see from the car that it had some sort of inscription. My historical curiosity had to know what was on the marker, so I got out of the car to check it out. In well-worn letters, it read: Tip Top Notcher Grand Champion St. Louis 1904 Well now I was very curious. This sounded like some sort of livestock-related marker, but I didn’t know what would have been in St. Louis in 1904. Enter Google.   Tip Top Notcher was the name of the champion boar at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. A gentleman named George Seckman of Brown County, Illinois, exhibited the boar. (Our video shoot that day was in Brown County, Illinois.) Before winning the World’s Fair in 1904, the boar had won classes at the Illinois State Fair and the…

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What you SHOULD be doing at junior nationals

Your heifer or gilt obviously plays a critical role while at the show all week in Springfield, Grand Island, Des Moines, Madison, Lexington, Louisville, Stillwater, or St. Paul. But what are YOU doing in the time you’re not spending with a halter or pig whip in hand? May I offer some suggestions? Meet new people. You never know who is in the stalls or pens nearby. They might be from the next county over in your home state or live a few hundred miles from you. They might be your future classmate in college, a fellow intern during your undergraduate years, or the friend you never knew you needed. You’ll never know unless you go find out. So say “hi”, introduce yourself, and get to know them. Cheer on your friends. Support your squad. They’re participating in shows and all sorts of contests.  Wish them good luck. Tell them they’ve got this. Offer sincere congratulations. And not just at the stalls – actually go to the ring and watch, sit in on their speech, and check out their poster. Better yet if you can do so for someone younger than you. Be part of someone’s village. Visit with industry partners. You’re at the same event all week as some really good people from some great companies and organizations. Rather than only stopping by for the “freebies”, take advantage of the chance to really learn about their company, inquire about internships and other opportunities for students, and meet the folks representing…

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Barrel the Pig, Tigger the Steer, and Justin the Pony

I showed a pig for the first time in 1985 at the Hancock County Fair in Findlay, Ohio. It was the open barrow show and I had been given a pig earlier in the summer to check on each evening and claim for my own. I was two and a half years old and couldn’t really pronounce “barrow” so I referred to my pig as “barrel” and that became its name – Barrel the Pig. I don’t remember this myself, of course, but this is how my parents tell it. At the fair, my uncle helped me show my barrow, which is likely to say that I followed my uncle around the ring. Barrel the Pig was named champion and later on, perhaps my favorite photograph of my life is taken of my dad and me and Barrel the Pig. A fun beginning to what would become an almost twenty-year, life-shaping experience. I can’t take any credit for Barrel the Pig’s success, but it was a fun starting point from which I grew and learned how to raise and show pigs. In those early years, I had a lot to learn. In fact, while I became an adequate showman later on, I initially had a really difficult time grasping some basic showmanship skills as a novice. The first time I clipped a pig was a less than stellar performance. It took a few years before I found a good system for walking pigs each day around the farm. In every…

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Big rewards from small projects: King Chicken goes to Denver

A few years ago, my oldest niece, Sophie, who lives in Colorado with her family, acquired her first chicken. To say she fell in love would be the understatement of the decade. In late 2015, I was out visiting her and her younger sister on their little farm on the Front Range. She had just turned six years old then and was already a chicken expert. Soon after I arrived on my visit, I was given a full tour of the farm and introduced to every animal on it – by name and with a full description of its breed, sex, current gestation status, and health condition. But the chickens held a special place in Sophie’s heart. Many little girls would ask for a variety of items for birthday gifts related to princesses and toys, but not Sophie. Sophie asks for new chickens to add to her flock. When her family traveled to our house for Christmas this past year, she brought along one of her Christmas gifts – an illustrated guide to poultry breeds. Needless to say, she loves caring for and learning about chickens. Sometime last year, she exhibited at her first show – a local jackpot. She had a great time, really enjoyed sharing her knowledge with the judges, and learned a lot about showing. So earlier this year when I heard she was getting ready to head to another show, I was excited she was going to get to experience that again. I soon found out she…

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Looking from the outside, in: A letter to future and present showman

Just a few weeks ago I attended the Tulsa State Fair no longer as an exhibitor but as just a spectator this time. I walked passed what used be our stall and as I saw a new set of cattle and a new set of people stalled there now, I found myself smiling and remembering all of the memories that I got to experience at this show with my family and friends. It was so nice to be able to walk around and see so many people that I haven’t seen in what seems like forever. I also came to the realization that I had no idea who some of these new exhibitors were and I felt old to say the least. I got the opportunity to stand ring side and watch most of the heifer show. I thought the judges were doing great and that the cattle, as a whole, looked the best they had ever looked in my time at the Tulsa State fair. I am definitely one of those people that pay attention to the little things at shows and one of my most favorite things in the world is to see the kids faces light up whenever they get the “champion slap” or “congratulatory handshake.” But more importantly, I love seeing them walk out of the ring and going straight to their parents, fitting help or ag teachers and hugging them because you can see how grateful and happy they are to have them. Every time…

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You Won’t Believe What I Saw at the Stock Show This Weekend

Yesterday I was at a stock show. I saw show halters, combs, and nervous exhibitors. I saw pump sprayers, show sticks, and game faces. I saw shampoos, adhesives, blankets, blowers, fans, showboxes, chutes, stands, and fitting mats. I also saw high-five’s, handshakes, slaps on the back, smiles, and hugs. And my favorite scene? As a swine exhibitor returned to the pens after his class, his friends made a human tunnel in the aisle for him to walk through with his pig. Oh, sure, there was intense competition going on, no doubt about it, but there was also an encouraging community present – exhibitors congratulating one another, kids cheering for one another, and families helping one another. It’s a unique community. Youth are building leadership skills, growing their character, and preparing for careers. Working with others to set goals and accomplish them is critical to success and fulfillment. Celebrating the wins – small and big, yours and others’ – is important to thriving beyond the daily grind. You can witness all of this at a stock show. What do you see when you walk into a stock show? You can choose your focus. Do you swear it’s all about politics? Are you focused on the high-priced animals or drawn into the rumors of cheating? Do you love the drama you think you see or do you choose to focus on the celebration of youth who are learning valuable lessons, enjoying serious competition, and creating lasting relationships? I know which perspective is…

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You may not know them, but they know you

Some of my fondest memories are loading up in the truck with my dad and younger brothers to head to a jackpot show. Chilly mornings, cramped truck rides, and then a day full of showing pigs always made for memorable trips. One weekend I had gotten frustrated, though, and Dad gave me a little pep talk by telling me about some girls older than me who had been very successful in the showring and industry. I didn’t know them but he referred to them as “the Bentley girls” and I understood that the youngest of these sisters was about five or so years older than me. Fast forward to my freshman year of high school. Through some great luck, I attended the National FFA Convention in Kansas City that fall as a freshman. Having been an FFA member all of about 60 days, I wasn’t really sure what was going on and didn’t yet know any of the programs or people. However, my advisor made certain we attended one general session in particular because of the speaker. I can still remember where we were sitting. We were to the right of stage, way up in the top rows, hardly able to see the podium. The time came for the introduction of the speaker. It was the retiring address of one of the national FFA officers. Neat, I thought. The speaker was a girl who had grown up on a farm in Ohio. I was more interested. She had shown pigs…

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Winning is not the Point

With each passing week as the summer rolls on, another junior national comes to a close and more county fairs have named their champions. Maybe you won the banner. Maybe you won your class. Maybe you didn’t bring home any new hardware. Maybe you worked the better part of a year on this project and now feel like you’ve got nothing to show for it. “But winning is not the point.” Pat Summitt, legendary women’s basketball coach, passed away recently and, among the many articles and tributes I read in the days following her death, I came across a column dated June 28, 2016, in the Washington Post written by Sally Jenkins. Included in the column was a letter that Coach Pat Summitt wrote to one of her young players in 1982. The first paragraph of the letter reads: “Shelia, This is your first game. I hope you win for your sake, not mine. Because winning’s nice. It’s a good feeling. Like the whole world is yours. But it passes, this feeling. And what lasts is what you’ve learned. And what you’ve learned about is — life. That’s what sport is all about — life!” So if you win the next show? Awesome. Congratulations, sincerely. But remember, winning passes and what will last with you are the lessons you’ve learned and the foundation you’ve built for yourself. And if you don’t win? Here’s the final section of the letter penned by Coach Pat Summitt: “Winning is fun . . . Sure. But…

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