The Ag Swag every exhibitor is looking for

Last week was a busy one for the cattle show folks here in Tennessee. We were in Murfreesboro, TN all week for the first week of the 41st annual Tennessee Junior Livestock Exposition (web, Facebook). Week 1 is all about the cattle. Week 2 is all about the sheep.

It was a busy week for those of us with the University Animal Science Department, preparing the entries, paperwork, arena, and awards. The best way to describe my feelings come Wednesday evening was “show week tired.” Those of you who have been there know exactly what I mean.

Monday was all about preparation and entries. Market steers and commercial heifers had to be weighed-in so the divisions could be divided into even classes of similar weight. Steers were also ultrasounded for ribeye area and fat thickness for the carcass competition (steer with the best measurements for potential carcass performance including weight, muscle and fat). Each day there was also a skill-a-thon for exhibitors, but I’ll share more on that later.

Tuesday everyone geared up for the steer and commercial heifer shows and showmanship competitions. Wednesday was full of registered heifer show and showmanship. In this show, each breed of cattle shows together, divided into classes based on the animal’s age. The showmanship competitions are a great opportunity for the exhibitors to be judged on their ability to show an animal in front of the judge. This sometimes includes swapping animals with another exhibitor in the ring.Everything wrapped up quickly and no one was injured.

The judges were from Texas and Kansas, both really thorough in their comments on each class. As we ran two rings, each judge had to share the mic between each class. It turned into a battle of the coaches and the guy from Kansas won out in control of the mic. But I think the judge from Texas really didn’t mind just talking one-on-one with each exhibitor.

It’s great to see so many youth involved in 4-H and FFA programs and competing in livestock competitions at the state level. As the judge from Kansas was explaining one of the cattle classes as the show wrapped up, he made some great comments that got my wheels turning.

Showing cattle is a great opportunity for youth to learn not only how to win, but also how to lose. These are vital life skills that many people miss out on if they don’t have to earn anything. Let the kids work. They’ll be better people for the experience.

Breakfast of champions at a cattle show and a regular occurrence for grad school students. Did someone say food?
1 of 3 tables of ribbons and plaques I had to plow through on show day
Champion Steer
Clean shavings

This week I’m at the TJLE lamb show in Cookeville, TN. I’m sharing photos and updates on my Social Media profiles. Be sure to follow along on Twitter using the #TNAg hashtag.

What is your favorite part of cattle shows?

Did you learn any valuable life lessons from showing livestock?

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