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Posted: February 14, 2013 10:45 p.m.

Training calves is a lot of work

Eastside High School FFA is proud of our Livestock Show Team members. We are fortunate to have some of the top livestock competitors in the state of Georgia. Livestock showing is what most people think about when they think FFA. While it is true there are many students who show livestock, there is more to it than what you see on the surface.

Not only do students compete in the show ring, but they also have to train the animal to trust them and to respond to their commands. The training starts many months before show season. It begins with halter breaking the calf, teaching it to walk along beside you, and set up. The calf has to learn to stand still, hold its head up, and set its feet in just the right way. Many hours of practice go into training a show calf. The students must work with their animal’s hair by brushing it and combing it daily. Brushing promotes hair growth as well as making the animal gentle. Throughout the process, the students learn patience and what it means to have a good work ethic.

Students also learn about feeding and watering the animals and the commitment it takes to care for livestock. The students must feed the correct amount of grain, hay, dietary supplements and fresh water to the animal in order to produce the optimal weight gain. Sometimes this includes veterinary services or medicine that the student must dispense to the animal. The student is required to keep records of feed amounts, hay and medicines used with the project. Using good math skills for cost analysis can be useful in a student’s everyday life beyond his or her livestock project.

As the actual date of a livestock show approaches, there are many tasks to complete. The calves must be washed, trimmed, fitted, show supplies gathered, feed rations packed and show clothes pressed for the show ring. Last but not least, the calves must be loaded onto the stock trailer and secured for the trip to the show. While at the show, there is a great deal to do to get the barn area ready and the calves ready for the show ring. Everyone with the group helps out and helps one another, whether it’s students, parents or advisors. Teamwork is definitely another skill the show team members learn while working with their livestock project.

When it’s finally time to enter the show ring, all the hard work is worth it. To show your animal off to the judge and audience is one of the best feelings ever. Sometimes students may win a first, second or third place ribbon and sometimes they don’t. No matter what color the ribbon, it is important that students know they have done their very best. Through this lesson, students learn sportsmanship and how to support one another, win or lose.

As you can see, students learn life lessons of responsibility, discipline, persistence and hard work through showing livestock and being a part of a livestock show team. These lessons carry over into everyday life and span a lifetime. Once when a judge asked a young girl why she was always smiling when she came into the show ring, she said, “Sir, it’s just part of the job.”

Hard work on the livestock show team is just part of the job.

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