If you want to get involved in your local stock show competition scene but don’t know where to begin, you’re not alone. Not everyone grows up showing livestock, but it’s tough to ignore the benefits of participating in these events as well as being involved in agriculture. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, agriculture and related industries supply more than 21 million U.S. jobs and 5.5% of GDP. Here are six tips for getting started in stock show competition in your area.
Start Setting Goals
Before you rush to sign up for your first stock show competition, it’s helpful to establish a few goals first. Is your goal to improve your skills as a breeder or to improve the overall quality of your stock? Maybe you just want to be a better person and improve your future employment prospects. Those are noble goals as well. Some of the qualities that you can expect to develop over the course of your experience include patience, diligence, determination, and influence. Hopefully, one of your goals is to have fun because these competitions can be a blast!
Choosing Your Membership
As a stock show competitor, it’s a tremendous help to have a membership in an agricultural extension service. Your two main choices are FFA and 4-H. FFA stands for Future Farmers of America, but the organization has a wide agricultural focus as opposed to just “farming.” Members of FFA study subjects related to food sciences, horticulture, aquaculture, wildlife management, and even engineering. While FFA is a formal education program sponsored by many local schools, 4-H is an after school program in local communities. Some programs work together, and the membership you choose should be based on both personal preference and the availability in your area.
Choosing Your Animal
If you’re going to participate in a stock show competition, you’ll need an animal to show. Several common choices include sheep, cattle, hogs, and goats. Once you choose the type of animal, it’s time to select your show animal. Among the selection criteria that you’ll want to use are such things as breed, age, skeletal/muscle structure, and price. For example, if you decided to show a pig, most shows limit weight to between 200 and 260 pounds.
Feeding Your Animal
Once you’ve selected your animal, determine the standard show requirements for that animal and use those standards to put together a proper feed program. When the stock show competition date arrives, you want your animal to look fit and healthy as opposed to fat and sleepy. Designing the right schedule to manage weight gain and growth will help you and your animal accomplish this goal.
Training Your Animal
Show requirements will vary depending on what type of animal you choose. Learn those requirements and then begin training your animal. For example, a calf will need to learn how to stand correctly and lead on a rope. To do this, you will need to halter break the calf, which takes both time and patience. In order to properly train and control the animal, you’ll need to have a trusty tool set.
Showing Your Animal
Now that you and your animal are sufficiently trained, it’s time to make a debut at your first stock show competition. Find a small show to start, preferably a county or jackpot show. This will give you the opportunity to get exposure to showing your animal in a show atmosphere and allow your animal to acclimate to the fun as well.
While participating in livestock shows takes commitment, the rewards are second to none. You’ll make new friends, learn new skills, and have more fun than you thought possible. One of the greatest benefits of these experiences is that they can help prepare you for future success in life.