Showing livestock, as so many youth and families in North Carolina do, is not an easy thing. It is not as simple as walking an animal around a ring, accepting a ribbon, and having your picture taken.
The days are long and include hours working with your animal, making sure it stands just so. These hours are longer when that goat or steer decides to be exasperatingly stubborn and rebellious.
The work is hard. Many a showman have earned their share of blisters from shoveling manure or playing tug of war with an animal.
The experience is messy. Mud-caked boots and poop-splattered jeans, oh, and is that slobber on my sleeve? Don’t even talk to livestock moms about laundry.
The miles are many. Hauling a trailer to the show in the wee hours of the morning, and heading home again in the dark makes a person thankful for their bed.
It isn’t cheap. The animals, feed, supplies, and gas are expensive. That’s all there is to it.
The success isn’t promised. Despite all the hours and hard work, at the end of the day, you are at the mercy of one judge’s opinion on that one day, and it might not be your day. That’s just how it goes.
SO, WHY DO IT?
If the hours are long, the work hard, the miles many, the expenses high and at the end all you may have is dirty clothes to show for your efforts, why show livestock?
The simple answer—for the love of livestock.
Because despite all the blood, sweat and tears, showing livestock is a passion and a love that so many across the state and country share.
It is the many hours invested that a love builds for an animal and bond between showman and stock grow. In those many, long hours, lessons of patience, dedication, and gentleness are learned.
It is through that hard work that an appreciation for a job well-done forms. As odd as it seems, blisters and bruises are loved for what they represent—accomplishment and perseverance.
It is the muck and the stink and the gross, that reminds us of our hard work, and a piece of our childhood heart loves the idea of getting dirty. Although, mom may not appreciate the extra load of laundry, love also grows there for that is her family doing something they love.
It is during the many miles in the car that a family becomes closer and memories are made.
It is the money that pays for the animals we love so much. It isn’t money in a hole, it is an investment in memories, lessons, and livestock.
And, it is in the moments of loss in the ring that we realize why we truly show livestock. It isn’t the ribbons or the banners or the sale price. It is for the love of livestock.
Perhaps people may think we are crazy for what we do. Some days we think we are crazy, but until you have experienced the world of livestock shows, you will never know why we do what we do. For us, though, it is good enough to know that it is all for the love of livestock.