Who is really watching you at livestock shows?

Now that I’m a mom, I realize who is really watching the showmen at livestock shows. Who is really watching you at livestock shows? www.celesteharned.com

I watch Lorelei interact with kids 5 or 6 years older than her and try to do everything they do, knowing that they will be the teenagers she’s looking up to when she begins her showing career.

I can’t help but think back to my first time showing my own pigs. When, while watching the senior showmanship class, my dad said, “You see Julie and Hope? You watch everything they do.

So I did, with all the focus an 11 year old kid could muster.

I watched them make laps across the ring, slow and steady, finding the open spaces. I studied the way they penned their pigs and waited for the judge’s cue to bring them back into the ring. I tried to eavesdrop as they answered the judge’s questions.

I was a sponge. If Julie and Hope did it, then that was what I was going to do too.

Chances are, there’s a parent telling his young showman to watch you.

Whether you’re in the show ring, the wash racks or your tack pen, there is always someone watching. As showmen, we bear the great responsibility to represent the best of the agriculture industry and the 4-H and FFA programs.

So now that the show season is beginning, I’d like to offer some advice to you older showmen:

1. Help other showmen.

Help the 9 year old whose pig keeps running away from him make it back to the pen. Share your spray bottle with someone in the makeup ring. It will probably have no effect on the rest of your day but it might just turn theirs around.

2. Participate in the skillathon.

Most shows have a skillathon, quiz bowl or some sort of event that focuses on industry knowledge. Over the years, I’ve noticed more and more of the older showmen skipping out on the skillathon because apparently they are too cool for it. Or worse, they participate but talk and make jokes the whole time.

Remember, there was a time when you didn’t know how to calculate average daily gain, had no idea what was in your pig’s feed and couldn’t tell the difference between a Boston butt and a picnic shoulder. You took the time to learn those things because you knew it would help you to be a more well rounded showman and take better care of your pigs.

You know that learning is important to being a successful in the show ring, set that example for younger showmen.

3. Dress modestly and appropriately.

Ladies, this one mostly for you.

I don’t care if you are the greatest livestock showman to ever live, if your jeans are too tight and your shirts are too low cut people are going to say that’s the only reason you won. Take pride in yourself as a person (and in the example that you are setting for younger showmen) and let your skill in the show ring make a statement, not your clothes.

If you’re interested in a more thorough discussion on this topic, please see my post: How to dress for livestock showmanship.

4. Don’t lose your temper with your animal.

I know first hand how frustrating and embarrassing it is when your animal doesn’t cooperate. (I once had a Ky. State Fair judge joke on the microphone that I should have entered my hog in the pig races instead of the pig show. I was mortified!)

You know what I guarantee won’t make it any better? Losing your temper.

I’ve heard judges tell stories about dismissing showmen from the ring because they weren’t keeping their temper in check. (And I’m glad they did!) No ribbon, banner or buckle is that important, I promise.

5. Remember that you might be the only “hog farmer” some people ever meet.

Whether you’re at the state fair or a county show, you never know when a non-farm person will be watching you work with your animals. You might be the only example of how farmers treat their animals that they ever see. (Making number 4 all the more important!)

If they ask you questions, take them seriously. Give them thoughtful, educational answers. Be friendly. Remember that you probably aren’t an expert on their industry either.

6. Shake the judge’s hand after the show.

I don’t care if you disagreed with every word he spoke and the way he placed every single class. At the end of the show, you thank the judge. Its just the right thing to do.

Someday you might have the privilege of judging a livestock show and you’ll realize how difficult that job really is. When that day comes, you’ll remember which showmen came up to you after to thank you.

Who is really watching you at livestock shows? www.celesteharned.com

There are always younger showmen watching you.

At an ag event last year, someone told me that they had interviewed an FFA member who said that I was her role model. I was obviously very flattered, but I didn’t recognize the girl’s name. After a quick Facebook search, I realized that she had shown pigs and was a participant in one of the workshops I had given at Ky. FFA Convention several years ago.

I hardly knew her, but she knew me.

You never know who is following your example. You never know who is looking up to you.

Hold yourself to a higher standard because the next generation is who’s really watching you at livestock shows.

UPDATE (May 28, 2014):

Several readers have contacted me who feel like I am “publicly shaming” girls in this post’s third point. I have also had many readers (showmen, 4-H/FFA leaders and parents) who have contacted me to thank me for bluntly addressing this issue.

Let me make clear, my choice of words was not intended to “shame” anyone. It was strongly worded to serve as a wake up call to teenage girls that this is how unprofessional and overly sexualized dress in the show ring is viewed by others. I stand by my words wholeheartedly, ladies should “let your skill in the show ring make a statement, not your clothes.”

I directed this at ladies specifically because I have never witnessed (nor heard stories from fellow showmen/judges) about young men dressing immodestly in the show ring.

If you’re interested in a more thorough discussion of how to dress for livestock showmanship, please see this post from my blog archives.


Who is really watching you at livestock shows? — 16 Comments

  1. As a mom of an 11 year old who is just starting her second year of showing cattle, and a 4-H leader. I loved your comments on showing livestock, even sent the link to the FFA teacher! I am one of the parents telling my daughter to watch her in the show ring!!! Thanks

  2. Thank you! As a showman, everyone needs a reminder once in awhile. I learned how to show by watching older showman and I hope I can have the same positive influence on someone else.

  3. A great blog post and topic! My 10 year old is in his third year of showing hogs and loves it. I will be sharing all of these with him, some as a reminder and some as a little “nudge” to help make a difference.
    Laurie – Country Link

  4. As a rabbit breeder and Judge, all the above is the same for our rabbit
    breeders. Teach the kids kindly, help them, even if it means giving a
    4Her a GOOD show rabbit to get them started. You will be blessed and remembered for the life of that child. Help adult newbies too. This is our venue, lets keep it alive.

  5. Sande – I’m glad to hear these reminders connect with the rabbit showing world too!
    Lexi, Chris and Laurie – I’m so glad you all enjoyed this post! Thanks for sharing it!

  6. I have a 17yr daughter she is a Senior she has been showing animals for 7yrs first hogs in 4H, then our own Angus beef replacement heifers and a hog in FFA she has been an FFA officer all 4yrs of High school my husband and I have ALWAYS been very adamant about what’s proper and what’s not there is no grey area, we are farmers and lucky live a beautiful life in agriculture respect it because you never know who’s watching is absolutely correct! Anyways my husband and I both wanted to let you know you said nothing that we havnt said ourselves and people need to know the fact of the matter So thank you for the post I am printing it out and hanging in our trailer..

  7. Thank you for point #3. I show dairy cattle and have watched a grown woman walk into the ring in a white mini skirt because she thought it would help her place higher.

  8. You are dead right. And your comments about modesty are absolutely right. In the ring, you are there to show off your skills or your animal – and nothing else. I use the quote with my own 3 daughters AND 2 sons, (all livestock showmen), “If you keep the cat food put away, you don’t attract skunks”. Nuff said.

  9. As a former 4-H agent, who worked with kids showing hogs, cattle and sheep, I was pleased to see your reminders of all this. Someone is always watching. Older 4-Hers must always set the example of the Head, Heart, Hands and Health to promote the continued accomplishments gained through 4-H. Thanks for posting this even the comments about modesty. We all need reminders.

  10. There is no need to single girls out for immodest dress. Your otherwise good article is all but ruined by the sentiment and you undermine your own ability to reach people by staunchly defending a truly sexist point of view after the fact. The call for appropriate and modest dress applied to the boys too. Let the animals shine regardless the gender of the handler.

    The young people are watching (reading) you too.

  11. I may only be 17 but this really hit home for me. This is my second year showing pigs and I remember last year my dad telling me to watch the older kids do showmanship. Between that having the guy that has been teaching me how to show saying he couldn’t believe it was my first year and some mom watching my class of showmanship ask who I was to my dad because I was making a great impression makes me love What I do. I may get mad at my pigs but I have realized that getting mad at them doesn’t make them do What you want. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  12. I want to thank you for posting the six points you made on hog showmanship. It applies not only to hogs but to all livestock and non-livestock 4-H projects and life in general. You said some were upset over the dress like a showman. As an adviser for 12 years, I told my group EVERY year to mind their dress. I realize it is hot and not a super clean environment, however NO ONE wants nothing left to the imagination view. I did have one young lady ignore my statement during weigh-in when market pictures were being taken. Another adviser hissed in my ear at her inappropriate dress. I did say something to the girl and to her mother. The girl and her mother did not get just how bad it was until I gave them a copy of the picture of all boobs and rabbits. It was taken more seriously thereafter.Setting and example and helping the younger is an great task set before older members, volunteers and parents.

  13. I found this post on Pintrest today and just thought I would thank you for it! I’m a 16 year old junior and have been showing cattle since I was in 4th grade. This post really hit home for me considering ever since I started doing open and preview shows in Iowa and it’s surrounding states a couple years ago, I’ve been watching and learning from everyone else. As far as the apparel subject goes, THANK YOU for bluntly saying that because it’s something everyone needs to hear. I will admit to being guilty of wearing a couple low cut shirts into the show ring, completely unaware of who was watching me and the influence it had on others. The head fitter on my fitting team pulled me aside and told me I needed to change due to the fact that his daughter was asking to wear shirts like mine when she showed. (she’s 11) That experience really opened my eyes and I re-did my show wardrobe with pearl-snap button-ups, FFA Polos, Cinch button-ups, Polo brand shirts, and 4-H t-shirts. After that, I realized the impact you have even when you aren’t in the show ring. Us show kids do have a lot of eyes on us, and a lot of stress on our backs as well, it’s not easy but to me, that’s not an excuse. I am by no means an expert in this industry, but I do know my way around it, and I do know what I’m doing most of the time. Another big thing is that just because you have been doing this for a long time, doesn’t mean that you know everything there is to know, don’t act too stuck up and listen to the advice given to you, you don’t have to follow it, but do respect the adults in this industry that have been in it longer than you have, we all still have a lot to learn and you need to realize that.

    Thank you once again, I will be sharing this with my fitting team and hanging it in our feed store! (:

  14. Love this!! Thank you so much for your tips! So great! We are just getting into 4H this year! My daughter is about to turn 11 and I feel like these are great lessons she can learn from…as well as my “cloverbud” boys!

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