Showing livestock is not for the faint of heart. It takes hard work, a sliver of talent, and a whole lot of dedication. Those fortunate enough to win banners know just how much time, energy, and heart go in to getting that animal to the backdrop. They know that what usually determines the outcome are the little things behind the scenes at home. Little things like keeping everything clean and fresh, maintaining a schedule, and simply believing in yourself will give you a solid foundation to help you reach the next level.
- Keep everything clean:
Some might say this is a no-brainer. You need to keep everything clean, duh! You can’t show a dirty animal, right? Well, to me, this goes further than just your animal. It extends to pens, feed rooms, alleyways, wash racks, barn yards, dry lots, etc. Taking pride in your barn by keeping it clean really shows how deep your dedication goes. Even if you have average facilities, doesn’t mean you have to treat them as such. It also might surprise you when you really start looking at how much of a difference it makes.
Once a week, we clean our barn. The feed area gets swept up, wash rack gets rinsed, and the alleyway gets raked. The feeling it gives us at the beginning of the week to have a clean barn is so refreshing, it motivates us the rest of the week! Up until the last month, we had no real lighting in our heifer pens. We used the flashlight on our phones to pick the stalls. In that situation, I thought we were doing pretty good but once we got lights put in, boy was I wrong. I’m not telling you to wire lights everywhere in your barn. Just be aware of what you leave behind and pay attention to not leave those pieces.
- Keep everything fresh:
You may be asking why this habit isn’t included in the first one and that’s because this habit is so important, it needs to be on its own. Keeping everything fresh is more than just keeping everything clean. It’s rinsing out feed pans, maintaining fresh water and bedding, sanitizing everything, etc. These activities might seem monotonous but it’s critical.
When we ask these animals to perform for the show ring, it’s important that we give them the resources to make it as easy as possible. Fresh water is vital for that animal to stay cool and hydrated throughout the summer. When tanks get clouded with muck, intake gets reduced. Would you want to drink water that has old feed, dust, dirt, hair, and whatever else in it? I wouldn’t! Draining and rinsing water tanks regularly will help that animal stay hydrated and healthy.
Feed pans are another issue if not kept clean. Dirty or wet feed pans or feeders can reduce feed intake. If feeders aren’t cleaned regularly, feed may build up and mold. Feed pans can be easily rinsed every night while other types of feeders may only need to be cleaned every couple of days.
Most people wouldn’t think it necessary to sanitize barn space or tools but it’s extremely important. Bacteria and viruses can live inside of combs or brushes and even in the pores of wood. The most common include ringworm, fungus, and warts. Using the same comb or brush on multiple animals is rarely an issue but without disinfecting those tools, the chances increase dramatically. Don’t get caught with a ringworm outbreak a week before your show because you chose not to sanitize!
These livestock are some of the smartest animals we will ever interact with. Every morning when I go out to feed, the heifers are standing by the gate ready to be let in to their stalls. They know that they will get fed once they walk in their pen because that’s our routine. When you break that routine, especially in regard to feeding ruminants, it can have drastic effects. When we miss a step in our routine, it can affect not only the attitude of the animal but the digestive system. This can include dealing with a whole slew of digestive issues that are easily avoided.
These routines are not only beneficial to the livestock, but they help you manage your time as well. Showing livestock is usually not the only activity going on around the farm so knowing when your livestock need fed or worked with will help determine when everything else will get done. Getting into a routine is the easiest way to help calm livestock. If you dedicate a certain part of the day to working with them, then they typically respond better during that period every time.
- Take your own advice:
A pretty wise old man once gave me some of the best advice: take your own advice. Sometimes we know that we should do or say something, but then don’t end up following through with it. For whatever reason, we all do it and most of the time, that advice is right! Take it! Whether you have a lot of experience or very little, if you are paying attention, you know what to do. If you need some reassurance, ask a trusted peer or mentor if you’re on the right path.
For years, all these habits listed here, were just pieces of advice that I didn’t take. Do you know where that got me? Nowhere! When I finally decided to take my own advice and keep everything clean and fresh and stick to my routine, my attitude changed, and I started to see some results. Don’t be afraid to make a change and stick to it. You may not see instant results, but it takes time. Remember to keep working hard with your goals in mind and you’ll be able to accomplish anything!
“Vision without Action is merely a dream. Action without Vision just passes the time. Vision with Action can change the world” -Joel A . Barker.
Greg Kirlin resides on his family farming operation in west-central Illinois and is a Feed Sales Representative and Marketing Specialist for a local feed & grain company, Dearwester Grain Services. He uses his passion for livestock production to help local producers reach their goals in both commercial and show stock settings. His brother and he both have a passion for raising and exhibiting purebred Simmental cattle.
Greg lives by a quote from Grant Cardone which states “Your greatness is limited only by the investments you make in yourself.” Keeping this quote close, Greg lives each day reaching for success and working towards goals set daily. He hopes to challenge readers to create their own success through passion, determination, and hard work.