If we want to keep eating and being clothed, we need to keep teaching youth about agriculture. Raising and showing livestock at county, district, and state fairs is a long tradition of 4-H and FFA, but it is not just about ribbons and prizes. It is about the future of farming, developing an understanding of herd management, record keeping, feed conversion, and understanding where our food comes from. Those youth taking on these projects take on a multitude of challenges with the idea they will learn more by doing.
Regardless of the size of the animal, the project undertaking is a large commitment. From steers and swine to pullets and rabbits, youth raising or showing animals in 4-H and FFA are required to do a variety of tasks that all develop life skills. A few we do not often consider are:
Time management – Feeding before and after school as well as weekends and holidays; making time to work the animal; bathing or grooming; practice showmanship; and balance all these with school-work, family functions, sports, and other commitments.
Critical thinking – What do you do when your steer isn’t gaining at the right rate? What if your rabbit is pulling hair? Chicken feathers the wrong color? The judge asks you to change animals with another exhibitor, how do you handle that?
Public speaking – Youth are usually required to participate in showmanship which includes speaking to the judge in the show arena. All exhibitors are expected to approach businesses and bring buyers into the barn. In addition, 4-H youth are required to prepare and present a demonstration or illustrated talk to reflect and share on something they have learned. FFA also provides opportunities and competitions related to public speaking.
Some of the more well-known life skills learned are:
Record keeping – Every exhibitor must complete a record book that includes health management, feed allotments, feed conversions, average daily gain, activities related to the project, and all expenses.
Marketing – Selling your animal is all about selling yourself. Youth are also expected to promote the program, the shows, the auctions, and the overall fair. Each exhibitor is expected to write buyer invitation letters, thank you letters, and to visit businesses promoting themselves and the shows.
We invite you to see our youth show off their skills at the Hernando County Fair, April 9 – 17, 2021. Livestock shows include poultry on April 10, steer on April 12, and swine on April 15. Animals will be sold in two auctions, one on April 13 and the second on April 16. For more information, contact 4-H Agent Nancy Moores at [email protected] or FFA Advisor Rick Ahrens at [email protected].