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Posted: February 9, 2013 5:19 p.m.

Livestock show teaches responsibility

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Kari Dylong, a senior at Eastside High from Newton 4-H, won Senior Beef Showmanship at the Newton Classic Livestock Show in 2012. Competing since the age of 9, Dylong will compete in her final local show against students from 4-H and FFA chapters...

What child hasn’t begged for a pet dog or cat?

"I’ll take care of it, I will, I will!" he or she pleads.

"Pleeeeeeeeeeease? I’ll feed it every day, really!"

Imagine, instead, that your child wants a cow.

Or perhaps a hog. Talk about not-so-cuddly.

Every year, dozens of 4-H’ers and FFA members in the county purchase their heifers, steers, hogs, goats and lambs.

Want a good chance to talk about responsibility with your child? Bring them out to the Newton County Classic Livestock Show on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 10 a.m.

The show is free and open to the public and takes place at the Newton High FFA barn, located on Ram Drive behind the Newton County College and Career Academy.

Students from Newton County and Jasper counties elementary, middle and high schools will show off their livestock projects one last time before heading to the big state show in Perry the following weekend.

These students practice responsibility and self-discipline through their projects.

The animals are raised at the youths’ homes and the youth is expected to care for the animal.

This isn’t just tossing some food in the bowl as they run to the bus either.

Livestock projects are a huge commitment.

Morning feedings, evening feedings and water just start the list of responsibilities.

Just because they live outside doesn’t mean you can skip the training —livestock projects must be worked with daily to get the animal used to the youth showmen and to teach it how to behave in a show ring.

They also need exercise to be in optimum shape for shows.

Then there are the veterinarian visits and care.

And, to top it all off, 4-H and FFA members are expected to keep careful records of feed purchases, medical care and shows.

Handwritten records.

Sounds simple, but how often do we actually maintain handwritten records these days? The youth must keep records in his or her own handwriting, and legibly enough for the judge to read.

The record book also includes an essay about the youths’ experience and supporting materials.

Before heading to livestock shows, animals must be washed, clipped and groomed. A heifer or steer takes a lot of blow drying.

Oh, and not to mention, during show season, it is often near or below freezing in the early morning hours when you’re washing.

But after all that work, finally the time comes to enter the show ring.

The showmen, ranging in age from first grade to seniors, march into the show ring with crisp, clean jeans and button-up shirts, shiny belt buckles nearly as bright as their smiles.

This is the moment they’ve been working toward for months.

They compete in showmanship and weight classes.

In showmanship, the abilities of the showmen are compared against their peers. The judge wants to see who has the best technique and can best direct their animal.

Weight classes pit animals of the same breed and approximate weight against each other to see which animal deserves top honors.

At the end of the day, each showman takes home ribbons and prize money, which will also be recorded in the record book.

But bigger than money and ribbons, each youth takes home pride in a job well done.

They’ve learned to care for an animal, keep accurate records and balance their own budget.

The youths have learned to rely on themselves, work with their family, and to help other showmen.

Showing livestock can be a life changing experience.

Come share in the experience on Feb. 16. See you at the show!

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