Hundreds of 4-H and FFA students from around the state descended upon the Georgia National Fairgrounds looking to prove they are the best of the best in the world of livestock showing. It’s the premier event in Georgia spotlighting all the blood, sweat, and tears these exhibitors have put in over the past year.
“This event is really important to these students,” says Carole Knight, 4-H Livestock Extension Specialist. “They’ve put a lot of hard work, time, money, and investment into these projects and so they really like to come and compete with their animals, but it really is just a fun time for friends, family, ag teachers, and 4-H agents to really share their passion for the agricultural industry.”
That sentiment is shared by all of the competitors as they get a unique opportunity to see old friends while also making some new ones with people that share their same passion for animal husbandry.
“Getting to see friends that I don’t get to see all the time. You know, I love showing. I love being in the ring. I love working my animals, but it’s such a great experience to see the folks that I only get to see maybe once or twice a year,” says Jesse Cronic, a Jackson County 4-H Student. “I love it. You know, this is what I live for.”
“A lot of people, if you ask around, this is their favorite place on earth right? The Disney World for livestock exhibitors, but, you know, it’s just a time to get together with a lot of folks that enjoy doing the same thing as you do and get to show off the fruits of their labor,” says Knight.
However, all of that solidarity takes a back seat once the competition begins as these students are looking for a little bragging right as well as prize money for all the work that went into grooming their animals.
“When we’re in the ring, it’s go time,” says Cronic. “The friendships can wait until we come out. There’s a huge competitive edge in the show ring in Perry, Georgia. We’re in the barn rinsing cattle, walking cattle, feeding hay every day throughout the year Monday or Sunday to Saturday. We have to keep our cattle in the best shape possible so that we can be competitive.”
While reaching this level of livestock showing is a major time investment, these students are sure to reap the benefits of that type of commitment over their lifetime.
“The livestock project is a very valuable experience. I mean, granted, it is a lot of hard work, but it teaches so many valuable lessons to these young people. And so, if anyone has any interest in animal science or livestock at all, this is a great project to really hone those skills,” says Knight.
“I would say be willing to step out and try something new. Showing to me at one time was foreign, but the more and more time I spent in the show barn and with those around me, it really allowed me to open up and offer that competitive edge and have some success,” says Cronic.
By: Damon Jones