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Are county fairs valuable experiences for kids? PLUS: 5 great fair time blogs

August 5, 2015

4 Min Read
Are county fairs valuable experiences for kids? PLUS: 5 great fair time blogs

Our family just wrapped up two busy weeks of cattle shows, including the county fair. It’s hard to believe that August is here and the state fair is just around the corner. Whether you’re there to support the first-year 4-H member or the college freshman completing her final year in 4-H, it’s very clear that these events are more than just winning in the show ring — we’re building future leaders in the agricultural industry.

A new poll on beefmagazine.com asks, “Is the county fair a valuable experience for kids?”

With 62 votes so far, 76% say that definitely 4-H and FFA projects at the county fair are great experiences for kids and parents. Meanwhile, 24% don’t think fairs teach kids anything about the commercial cattle business.

Vote in the poll here.

As always, we encourage your thoughts on the polls in the comments section. Here is what a few voters have to say:

  • User-316592 says, “My favorite saying is - I hope showing livestock is cheaper than drug rehab. Many friends told me I was right!”

  • Meanwhile, rjdunkle writes, “I voted yes, but would say that it is limited to the county fair level. We are in Tulsa County, Oklahoma, home of the Tulsa State Fair, which is money driven, and the exhibitors are a necessary nuisance in order to call it a ‘fair.’ Also, showing at the larger shows tends to teach the kids that you have to spend $50,000 on a steer or six figures on a heifer if you want to compete. I know there are exceptions, but most of the winners of the junior heifer show last year had been purchased for near, or above, $100,000 except for a couple of kids of large seedstock breeders who saved back heifers that would have sold in that range. I don't believe there are going to be very many instances of someone buying a $2,500 heifer that was only worth $2,500 and taking her to the championship of any of the larger shows. In our county, you would be real lucky even to win county with a $2,500 heifer.”

  • Future Farmer adds, “Sadly, the livestock show is an anachronism that is not only useless to the commercial stream from farm-to-food, but is also a distraction from the more modern practice of tracking carcass characteristics from the farm to the table such as yield, quality, profit. While there is absolutely no substitute for the hands on experience, pride, composure and diplomacy that is learned at the fair we could be judging for more modern and useful qualities of both the animals and their owners. Much more emphasis could be placed on animal health, performance in the feedlot, carcass quality, profit, epidemiology and herd health, and most importantly this is a place where we are on stage in front of our non-farming and ranching cousins. We should demonstrate that we are looking out for their best interests as well as that of our animals and ourselves.”

There are certainly some interesting and differing views on this topic. In my mind, I know there will always be the incentive to purchase the high-dollar animal to compete, and some folks will always be willing to cheat or toe the line of ethics to win.

However, overall, showing livestock teaches kids responsibility — how to feed an animal to gain, what traits make a high-quality animal, how to market beef at the end of the summer project, how to present themselves and their animals in a professional manner, how hard work will make their animals look better, how to eloquently answer questions in showmanship, and the list goes on and on. I will certainly get my kids involved in showing one day, and I hope to instill in my daughter lessons of integrity, work ethic, responsibility, winning and losing with grace, and always striving to be a better person.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Is showing livestock good for kids or not? Let us know in the comments section below.

Plus, check out these five great blog posts on showing cattle and feel free to share this post on social media today.

1. “15 things stock show moms understand” by Kate Hagans for Ranch House Designs

2. “It’s not a stroke; it’s fair week” by Holly Spangler for Dakota Farmer

3. “County fair” featured on AgUnited for South Dakota

4. “Why coaching character is more important than winning cattle shows” by Amanda Radke for BEEF

5. “Show mom diaries: show-kid tough” by Christy Couch Lee for Cattle Network

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.


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