Put the time in where it counts
By Trent Loos
Once again I was honored to sit in the show arena at the 2013 Nebraska State Fair and announce the cattle shows. After nearly a week of announcing, I put on my work hat and helped my girls get ready to show their 4-H steers. Their calves placed well but they truly made their parents proud in the showmanship classes.
As show day rolled on, I got to thinking about how of these events actually progress. Any time you run into someone you know they ask, “How did you do?” The typical response is, “We did pretty good. The class we were in was really tough.” That, by the way, is what everybody says except the family that wins the class.
Handling that conversation is the main reason for teaching your kids what it takes to win the class, whether they are showing the animal or the kid is evaluated on his skills. They need to know how to be good winners and losers, but most importantly we need to instill in them the inspiration to be better.
Here is what many who are not involved may not know. Success has very little to do with what happens on show day. No matter what species we are talking about, it is the work and preparation that happens in the months leading up to the fair that sets you apart.
Show animals are walked each and every day. Most are taken to the wash rack and at least rinsed if not given a full washing every day. In the case of cattle it is even more extensive because you keep the animal as cool as possible with misters and fans to grow more hair so that you can clip the hair to present the best possible phenotype.
I am not talking about shaving. I am talking about clipping that mop of hair to enhance or emphasize certain traits that you want to be seen and perhaps hide a few that you don’t care for. Whether you like the fact that hair is such a huge part of the cattle show scene or not, it is and that is a debate for another day. For now I am simply walking you through that amount of time spent preparing for that walk through the show ring.
In the last couple of months prior to show it would be easy to say that at least one hour per day is spent working every critter in some way, shape or form. With cattle, again thanks to hair work, you could spend several hours preparing on show day. You spend all of those hours and when you walk in the ring to compete you will be evaluated and placed in less than two minutes of total time spent by the judge. The class may last longer than that but you will have your fate determined by less than two minutes of personal evaluation, including several looks and perhaps a run of the hand down his top and rib.
The good calves and good showmen sort themselves to the top quite easily. When they hit the ring the calf already knows what is going to take place. If you watch closely you will see that they will not “set” the calf up, but the calf will walk right into the proper position because he has been trained to do so in those hours spent at home.
Today, more than ever, the demands for time that are placed on these kids by high school coaches and teachers along with the time that is needed at home to prepare these animals certainly makes it tough. Even though few of the kids will ever go on to compete at college or professional athletes, coaches insist that they spend time as if they are going pro. Unfortunately, this takes away from their time with livestock projects, an area where they may actually grow up to make their profession. As parents we strive to maintain a balance in all things for our girls and we think that is important but that doesn’t mean it is easy.
If that show animal does not have proper balance, his two-minute appraisal will not go well. Balance in our life is of even greater importance although very much parallel to this. As we walk our miles every day preparing for that final evaluation, we need to make sure we are putting the time in where it needs to be spent. That is the real lesson that we are teaching our kids through this endeavor.
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.