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Category: General

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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4 keys to slay your junior national speech delivery

Can you believe summer is flying by already? World Pork Expo just wrapped up last week and national junior heifer shows kick off this weekend! If you’re participating in a speaking contest this summer at a junior national event or your local county fair, we’ve got some tips on nailing the delivery. Good luck! Plant your feet, unless it’s meaningful. Extra movement that doesn’t add anything to your message can be very distracting. You’re much better off to deliver your speech with fewer, meaningful movements rather than walk constantly throughout your delivery. So, set a “home base” that your feet adhere to when not intentionally moving. I’ve judged quite a few speaking contests for students, and I’d always prefer to see a student who plants their feet for periods of time rather than aimlessly walking throughout the entire speech. You’ll appear more confident and be able to make more effective hand gestures. Move as much as you want from the waist up, but think carefully about when and how you move your feet. Talk to me, not at me. The judges of the contest should not be observers of your speech. They should be recipients of your message. Speak directly to them (and others) in the room (even if you’re looking at the tops of their heads). Whether a prepared or extemporaneous speech, think of your delivery as a conversation – where you’re the only one talking at the moment – and use that conversation mindset to guide your tone…

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Every project begins with the same dream, but there’s only one way it’s even possible.

Every project starts with the same dream. We all want to win the big show, take home the banner and be the last one standing when the judge puts down the mic at the end of the day. While there’s no way to guarantee this dream will become a reality, there’s only one way it’s even possible. You have to have determination. Earlier today I was enjoying lunch out with my husband B.J. and was captivated by an ESPN feature on the television screen nearest our table. The show told the story of Carlos Correa, now a Major League Baseball player for the Houston Astros. Correa grew up in Puerto Rico in a family with few resources and, yet, was successful in his pursuit of baseball. He would rise early, focus on schoolwork, and practice diligently – every day. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him or his family and I’m confident many sacrifices were made, but his relentless determination resulted in him being the first overall pick of the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft. Determination is a drive to succeed – an unwavering desire to accomplish the goals you’ve set for your project. It is working intently to achieve your dreams regardless of the opposition you might encounter. We all know, over the course of your project, you’ll face lots of opposition. Your calf might go off feed, your pig might be stubborn while you’re training it for showmanship or you might be tempted to shortcut practice in the…

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The best kept secret in the show stock business

We all do it. Every single one of us. We look for a competitive edge, a new tip or trick that will take us to the next level, a top-secret solution to improve our game and give us an edge on show day. People spend a lot of time and effort searching for secrets, thinking if they had an inside track they could level up or even upend the competition. There’s one secret in the show stock business most people aren’t prepared to handle. Are you ready? Here it comes! There are no secrets. There is only knowledge, and the funny thing about knowledge is we all start in the same place. We all start with zero knowledge. It’s true. Even Kirk Stierwalt once knew nothing about cattle. Think about that for a second! Even the path to mastery starts at zero. So what does it take to attain knowledge and what do you do with it after you gain it? Knowledge comes from many sources. I think if you asked any of the Weaver Leather Livestock ProStaff, they would tell you that knowledge mostly comes from experience, repetition and lessons learned the hard way, but it also comes from a willingness to listen to those who already have the knowledge you need. Each of these men would admit they gained knowledge from the folks who came before them. Continuing the tradition of passing knowledge on to others is one of the big reasons they dedicate so much of their…

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Six Moms You Meet at a Stock Show

Thank God for Moms… the glue that holds everything and everyone together on show day! Where would we be without them? They truly are what makes the stock show world go ’round. Which stock show mom is in your family? Food Mom – Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks …she’s a shining star. She truly believes that the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. She brings enough food to feed the entire barn and graciously welcomes any and all to stop in at their pens for a bite to eat. Her crock-pot game is strong and at any given point she may have several of them fired up keeping the family favorites warm and ready to eat on demand. Sloppy joes, cheesy potatoes, walking tacos…she’s got an excel spreadsheet to document any and all meals appropriate to take to a show. She’s a care taker through and through. Her motto: “You can’t be at your best in the show ring on an empty stomach”. Hair Mom – She’s high in demand on show day. The Mom who can do hair is truly an asset. She most likely invented the French braid. Curls, buns, the perfect pony tail and even the hair poof look are no match for her skills. Always prepared, her purse contains a mirror, bobby pins and extra hair ties. Just give her a brush and heck, if she doesn’t have hairspray, she’ll just do it with adhesive. Every little girl dreams of hitting the ring…

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