Life Lessons from the Showring

This past weekend at the Ohio Beef Expo, you only had to watch about one or two classes of the steer and heifer show to realize one thing: nine year old’s are tough! The weather was clear and cool outside, making it perfect for the cattle’s thick hides; naturally the animals were feeling a little frisky. But despite a few calves getting loose here and there, you could tell that the young showman were having a blast and that they were all focused on doing their best.

As I watched the young showmen in the ring, I thought back to my first years showing cattle. Even though I have been removed from the show industry for several years, the lessons that I learned from the experience have never left me.  If you are a parent of a young showman or a showman yourself, hopefully these tips will help you make the most of your show experience.

Halter breaking a calf after school during my Junior year of high school.

Halter breaking a calf after school during my Junior year of high school.

Do your work ahead of time:
You never just walk into the show ring and expect to win Grand Champion without a lot of hard work and effort behind the scenes. It takes countless hours of working in the barns, monitoring feed rations, and working hair in order for beef animals to look and feel their best on show day. For me, this meant putting in 8 hours at school, going through grueling soccer practices, and then still staying out in the barns until well after dark, only to get up and do it all again the next day. But by the time show day rolled around, I never regretted those extra hours that I spent in the barns because I knew the beef animals that I walked into the ring were a true representation of my hard work.

Don’t get worked up:
During my fourth year of showing cattle, I vividly remember the terrifying feeling of having a panic attack in the show ring. I was so worked up that I could barely catch my breath and it took everything in me to make it through the class. Once you get a little upset, the effect just keeps snowballing and it’s hard to calm yourself (and your calf) down. The most important thing to remember in that situation is that you are in the ring to have fun! Whether your calf is having a bad day or you feel like you made a few mistakes, take a deep breath, smile, and remember that your time in the ring is what you’ve been looking forward to all year; enjoy it!

Don’t pay attention to the crowd; just do your job:
It’s easy to become nervous when you have hundreds of eyes on you in the show ring; you feel like even the tiniest mistakes are somehow the center of everyone’s attention. But the truth is, once you are in the ring, you have a job to do and nothing else matters. When it’s time to get down to business, let the world fade away and simply focus on giving your best performance for the judge.

It all pays off in the ring!

It all pays off in the ring!

Just keep showing:

It can be frustrating being so small in comparison to such a large animal, and many times it feels like the steer is leading you, rather than the other way around. It’s important, though, to keep showing, no matter how many times that calf swings out of line or moves it’ s feet out of place right after you set them. Your calf knows you and they know when you get frustrated, so just keep working and show the judge that you aren’t giving up, even if your calf is having a bad day.

And most importantly, I learned what it means to be a good producer.

My family knows that to get the purple, you have to work together as a team.

My family knows that to get the purple, you have to work together as a team.

As a nine year old, caring for a market animal is a really tough job. It isn’t like having a pet, because you know that what you are raising serves a greater purpose than simply being a companion. Raising my own cattle to show through 4-H taught me that everything I did as the producer was a direct reflection of my family and our farm. As I now look forward to my future in the beef industry, I know that I have the same responsibility of representing the beef community in a positive light.

Whether you are raising one calf to show through 4-H, an entire herd of beef animals, or maybe you have no connection to cattle at all, these five points can still mean something to everyone. Be prepared, don’t dwell on mistakes, do your job, never give up, and set a good example. It’s incredible what raising livestock at nine years old can teach you and the life lessons that will remain with you throughout the years.

All for the love of beef,
Sierra Jepsen

2 responses to “Life Lessons from the Showring”

  1. Connie Smith says:

    Awesome blog Sierra….you are doing such great things ..
    Very proud of you and all of your efforts!!!!

  2. Sierra Jepsen says:

    Thank you very much Connie; I have Ohio producers to thank for getting me here!

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