Youth learn showmanship skills from experts at Livestock School

At Livestock School, experts teach youth everything they need to know about feeding, training and showing animals.

Following is a guest post from Marisa Linton. Marisa grew up showing and raising livestock, and currently lives on her family’s small farm in Mount Olive. She has shown animals at the N.C. State Fair for the past 14 years and is a past youth livestock scholarship recipient. She is an N.C. State University graduate, agricultural photographer and blogger.

We’ve probably all heard of dog shows, but what about a goat show? No? Well, how about a pig, cow or sheep show? They exist; I promise.

Growing up, people would ask me, “How exactly do you show a goat or pig?” I’d respond with a basic speech of what it is all about — “Walk your animal around the ring, keep the animal between you and the judge, stare at the judge, set the animal up (unless it is a pig). The judge is either looking at the competitors for how well they exhibit their animals, or the judge is looking at the animal to determine the quality of it.” What I didn’t often get into was everything exhibitors had to do to get to that point, which is a tremendous amount of preparation.

There is so much to learn with showing livestock, and thankfully, there are numerous educational opportunities for youth to learn exactly what to do. One of the largest events is the North Carolina 4-H Livestock School and East Coast Extravaganza, held in March. Here, youth come from all across the state to learn how to become better showmen and prepare their animals for spring and fall shows.

Livestock School is held every year at the East Carolina Ag & Education Center in Rocky Mount. During the two-day event, experts in the field come to teach youth everything they need to know to have a successful 4-H livestock project. They learn about feeding regiments, training animals, and showmanship skills and techniques. Youth are even able to bring their own animals to practice with. An effort is also made to provide an animal to youth who can’t bring theirs so they can practice as well.

Livestock School hosts classes and experts for four species, cattle, sheep, goats and hogs on a rotating basis. This year was cattle and sheep. Next year, the event will rotate to goats and pigs.

Instructors were Miles Toeynes of Illinois for cattle and Cooper Newcomb of Oklahoma for sheep. The experts combined intense classroom and hands-on activities to equip individuals with information needed to have a quality 4-H livestock project. Class topics included nutrition, health management, grooming and fitting show animals and showmanship.

“While at the school, I received hands-on experience working with cows. I also was able to learn how to feed and care for the animals,” said 14-year-old Madison Bivens of Duplin County. “My favorite part of the meeting was learning about showmanship and to see others showing their cows.” Madison hopes to show a cow in the fall, but many of the attendees have animals for the spring show, too. This event allows them to prepare for the entire year. In conjunction with the Livestock School is the East Coast Extravaganza, which is a show for all four species and allows youth to show off what they have learned before the big spring shows.

The Extravaganza allows youth to show their animals and what they have learned at Livestock School.

The weekend of the Livestock School and Extravaganza is one that many look forward to all year. It’s a chance for youth who all have a passion for livestock to come together and learn more. The event allows youth to become better showmen and develop a community with one another.

So, if you ever hear of a goat, pig, sheep or cattle show, know that there is a lot more to it than walking an animal around a ring. There is a great deal to learn. These youth have to know how to care for, feed and groom their animals in order to do their best and become champions in the livestock ring.

The Livestock School and Extravaganza is sponsored by Show-Rite Feeds, Hubbard Feeds, N.C. State Fair Sale of Champions and private sponsors.

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