The final sheep show of the year is coming up for us in Hutchinson next weekend (or this past weekend when you read this). This is a show that I both dread and look forward too. I look forward to it because my morning and evening chores will get much easier afterward with no show animals to feed but I also dread it because it is the last show of the season and it means another year is gone.
This past week is unbelievably hectic, we are in the middle of corn harvest, sheep must be sheared and the tack must be organized. There are not enough hours in the day and shearing by the light of the garage is really tough. Well, I suppose maybe it is easier since you don’t see the spots you missed. In any case, this is a busy stressful week and we often ask ourselves if it is worth it.
I know many of you have seen articles or even experienced the darker side of youth animal shows and someday we will discuss that. I have definite opinions but we will leave that for another time. Even with all of its warts and problems youth animal shows are still a great thing for kids to be involved in. I know my kids have benefited tremendously and we will miss them a great deal when we are done.
Are there bad apples in the show ring? Sadly, the answer is yes. Are there parents, breeders and fitters who take things too far and give everyone a black eye? Again the answer is yes. Are there families who can simply buy their way to the top? I think we all know the answer is again to the affirmative. It is sad but it is also a reflection on society as a whole and by no means do these flies in the ointment represent the vast majority of 4-Hers and FFA members who participate. Unfortunately they tend to attract the most attention.
My family has seen the worst of the show ring and we have had discussions about it. To be honest, I have told my kids that in some ways this is preparing them for the real world. No matter what field of work you go into there are always those who will do anything to get ahead, whether it is legal or not. In any business there are those who have more money and resources than you do and they can circumvent hard work with that money. These are hard lessons to learn and bitter pills to swallow.
So why are we involved? It is simple; the vast majority of the youth and families involved in youth animal shows are good, salt of the earth people and the very role models I want my kids to be around. The youth involved in showing livestock are the kind that get up early, work hard and are good kids. They are learning real skills, responsibility and gaining a work ethic like none other. They know what it is like to have other depend on you.
I have had employers tell me that they like kids who come from the show ring. They know how to start a project and see it through to the end. Livestock kids can make a plan, make sure it happens each day and most important, complete it. They know the benefit of finishing strong and doing things the right way. I have heard this many times from people in many different businesses. Livestock show kids are always in demand.
I guess that brings us back to the bad apples. Sure they may win a trophy or two; they may get their picture in the winner’s circle but in the end the few that win by hook or crook end up losing. They miss out on those real world skills and the true life skills that will ultimately get them ahead. Do all winners cheat? Absolutely not, most of the winners are the very kids I am talking about and are very deserving of any award they receive.
I guess what I am saying is that not all of the good things about youth livestock shows can be judged in the final drive. The benefits cannot be counted by the number of buckles and banners won. It is more than that and often the youth benefiting the most are not at the top of the class. That is why my kids are involved and why this weekend is important.