Is it cold outside? Check! Is there a chance of rain, snow, sleet, or blizzard? Check! Then, it must be stockshow season, or as some of the farmers prefer to call it “winter”. But, either way you pronounce it there is a blitzkrieg of activity all around. Break out the hand warmers, (I can never get mine to work), pull out the Wall’s coverall’s, and the ski masks that you’ve never used for snow skiing and prepare to hit the road!
That’s what you do if you are one of the members of the American Hereford Association, or any other livestock exhibitor getting their animals prepared for a winter of hauling to livestock shows and promoting the merits of their animals. Aww, brings back memories….(trailer hitches braking over the Houston ship channel, loose bulls dragging me down the aisles at San Antonio, my third broken heart in pieces somewhere around the arena in Austin). It was always a blast to load up and hit the road for one of the majors. No, we’re not talking about Phil Mickelson or anybody carrying a metal stick and wearing a green jacket. The “majors” to an agricultural kid means Louisville, Kansas City, Denver, Ft. Worth, San Antonio, Houston, and a plethora of other livestock and county shows that enable exhibitors to show off their livestock.
Many of these shows are held in the beginning of winter and run through till spring- supposedly when there is less work to do back at the farm or ranch. Ha, less work! Guess “they” never had to break water troughs of ice, watch for mama cows calving, and make sure there is enough forage and mineral to keep the herd healthy and growing. Anyways, the livestock show developed as a chance for the ranches and farms to get together and compare notes on how their animals stacked up against each other, and to learn about new techniques and breed management. Plus, anytime you get a bunch of end of the dirt road people together you know there is going to be a great time had by all.
The livestock shows of today have come a long way from their steeped historic roots. Many shows today are 2-3 week engagements and are run as non-profits. These stockshows generate millions in scholarship funds for kids to use to pursue agriculture, math, and science degrees and inevitably make the world a better place. Also, they are a great opportunity for “townies” (city people) to learn about agriculture and how it affects their lives. That includes helping to dispel current myths and fads seen in the daily world of the digital age. Just because you read it on the Internet does not make it true….(Unless you read it here of course!…Maybe).
The youth that participate in the livestock shows are better off for their experience. I mean, where else can a kid learn the art of negotiation by bribing a ship dock welder at 3 am in the morning? I still don’t know how my father pulled off arranging a crew unloading a cargo ship to bring a fork lift and a welder to reattach a Ranch Hand rear bumper to a Ford pickup while the said bumper was still attached the cow trailer that had come apart from the pickup!!! Quite the ordeal with 5 show heifers still inside the trailer!!! (For the record, that bumper then stayed attached for another 200,000 miles before the pickup was sold). I definitely learned coolness under pressure from situations like that and other adventures along the stockshow trail. I know first-hand that those youth running down the roads with their animals and parents and living on canned beanie weenies, What A Burger, and funnel cakes are learning valuable lessons in critical thinking, problem solving, observation, and time management. Plus, a heck of a whole lot of family time has to make for a successful person. There is an old horse trainer’s wisdom, “You have to pull lots of wet saddle blankets off them to make them any good.”
That same analogy applies to all those experiences that will be going on this year during stockshow season. The long drives, frozen hands, early morning wake up calls, judging competitions, public speaking contests, and all the other opportunities that these shows have will provide lessons and bonds that our youth will take with them forever. There are bound to be some phenomenal leaders coming out of those show experiences. I know I’m thankful to my Mom and Dad for the efforts they put forth to make sure we had those opportunities!
We at CHB wish all of our American Hereford Association exhibitors and all exhibitors the best of luck and safe travels as they make their way this season. Relish the moments and never overlook an opportunity to learn something new about your world and yourself.