Earlier this week I told ya about all of the fun we had in the show ring at the Tennessee Junior Livestock Expo, but there was another competition at the event.
Raising and showing livestock involves many more skills outside of the show ring. This includes subjects like health, nutrition, handling, and of course knowing more about the product we ultimately produce – beef!
The livestock skills competitions at numerous events provides an opportunity for youth to competitively learn more about these different subjects. I remember participating in these events during my summers as a 4-Her. It was a great motivation to keep the learning wheels turning with a subject I care more about learning than English in a classroom.
I had the opportunity to help with this livestock skills competition, working all of the stations for the different age groups. Always works great as a refresher course for subjects we all need to be more familiar with.
Cattle Breed Identification
Our first station involved identifying different breeds of cattle. Today there are a number of cattle breeds that are commonly black or red hide. However, it’s really important to be able to identify the characteristics that make each breed unique. There were some rare breeds on the Senior level table. Here’s a great page from Oklahoma State with most of the cattle breeds in the U.S.
For youth in the show ring with their livestock, it’s important to understand how animals respond to movement and interact with each other. At our second station we used an iPad and asked the kids to demonstrate the paths they would take to move their animal from one point in the ring to another. It’s also important for the kids to understand what a good position looks like for the animal. We had photos for the kids to identify the best positions for the animals’ legs and feet to be in the show ring. Setting up an animal in the correct position can make a different in how the judge perceives the animal’s quality.
Animal Health Identification
Just like a classroom of elementary students, congregating a large number of animals in one place can spread disease quickly. For this reason, most shows require a veterinarian to sign a health certificate prior to the show stating the animal is in good health and has been vaccinated against common animal diseases. It’s important for youth to understand what a health certificate means, where to find specific information on the certificate, and understand what the common diseases are in their respective animal species. At the third station we had an example health certificate and asked youth to answer related questions.
We utilize a huge number of feeds when balancing nutrition for livestock. At the fourth station we asked youth to identify raw feedstuffs that are used in cattle diets. There were over 50 different feeds available and kids only had to match a handful. It’s also important that we be able to identify which feeds are good sources of energy, protein, fat, minerals, and whether they are classified as forages or grains. I was really surprised at the number of kids who couldn’t identify individual raw feeds and referenced only the branded and mixed feeds they give their animals.
The last station was divided into two sections geared at teaching youth more about our ultimate product when raising cattle – BEEF! In the first task, youth had to identify the location of wholesale meat cuts where carcass are divided. This includes things like the fore shank, chuck, round and flank.
The second part of the meat ID station was to identify retail meat cuts of the animal. This includes things like the 7-bone chuck roast, rib roast, rib eye steak, and t-bone. I support these types of tasks because it is very important to identify our role in production with the ultimate purpose of cattle – to feed other people. Teaching youth this from the start is vital in retaining that connection with where our food comes from, something so many in our country have forgotten.
Youth events like this are great for learning so many life skills and feeding a passion for raising livestock that so many your posses. While at the show I talked with a father who was there help his kids – the 6th generation of livestock exhibitors in the family. He has trophies from cattle shows in Tennessee dating back to 1911. That is something that makes me Agriculture Proud.