Show stock Lessons

When I was in 4-H, my parents always told me that showing livestock was a family affair. Although the animals were my project, working together as a family and receiving help from my parents throughout the summer show season was important.

While I was at the Ohio State Fair these past two weeks, I took a second to stop and look around at the families working together. I truly believe in the saying, “those that work together stay together.” Showing cattle was always more to me than just winning a purple ribbon or shiny trophy. Showing livestock teaches lifelong values and characteristics to the youth that they will always live by. Now that I am out of 4-H and have the chance to stand back and watch the up and coming generation of showman, I cannot help but reflect on the lessons showing livestock taught me, as well as watch these characteristics showcase in other youth.

  1. Hard work- the countless hours, days and night that are put forth to care for our livestock are unmeasurable. Eight a.m. show days come early in the morning when move in to the fair was finished up at midnight. Showing livestock teaches youth how to work hard with their project for success.

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    Showing beef cattle requires youth to spend time in the barn washing and drying their animal. Patience, time, and practice are three motivational goals learned through working hard.

  2. Dedication- showing livestock requires dedication to not only feed and water the animals every day, but also work with and clean them daily. Livestock youth are dedicated to the well-being of their animals all hours of the day, in all types of weather.

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    Spending the time with ones project is important to teach it how to walk, set up, and get use to a change in surroundings. Youth must be dedicated to work with their project multiple days a week to get it ‘show ready.’

  3. Manners- Working together as a family taught me that “please” and “thank-you” go a long way. Although some days can be more stressful than others or the days that parents seem to be doing everything backwards from planned, being a part of the show stock industry teaches youth to thank their parents, siblings, other youth, 4-H and FFA advisors, and the judge for their help and hard work.
  4. Tears- Everyone always has the hope of walking out of the show ring being the champion, but like so many things, there can only be one winner. Showing livestock teaches youth how to win with dignity and loose with grace. More times than not tears have been shed because an animal misbehaved or I wanted to place higher in a class than I did, but through the tears, I learned to be grateful for what I did have and shake the hand of the winner.
  5. Love- showing livestock is about loving what you do and doing it because you love it. My last two years in 4-H, I found my happy place in the barn washing and blow-drying my projects. Spending so much time with the same animal allows you to learn their personality and become best friends. Showing livestock teaches you to not only love your animals, but love your family for being there with you every step of the way.

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    Spending so much time with an animal throughout all weather conditions and throughout the highs and lows of every show allows you to become best friends. Learning the personality of your show animals and connecting with them in and outside of the ring can bring so much joy and happiness to youths’ life.

I could never express how truly grateful I am to have been given the opportunity to grow up on a farm and show livestock for numerous years. When I look back and reflect on the entirety of the years, the ribbons and banners won mean a lot, but the valuable lessons through experiences are treasures that have helped shape me into who I am today. I hope that as I begin to help the next generation of youth, as well as watch the youth working together with family and friends, they find value in the lessons showing their livestock will give, as I did throughout my years as a show stock kid.

Show cattle and smiles!
~Demi~

Stop, Watch, and Listen

When it comes to being a part of the beef industry, there are multiple facets that one can be a part of; the beef producer, the advocate, and the shower. Most youth would agree that the best part of showing cattle is not the colorful rope halters or show sticks, the daily washing and blow drying, or the sparkles on the jeans as a part of the wardrobe, (although all fun pieces of showing) but the facet of showing the animal that so much time and dedication is put in to. There is no better feeling than walking into the ring and having your steer or heifer behave and do everything you have practiced at home; and taking home a ribbon, trophy, or banner always adds an extra sparkle and rewarding memory to the experience. However, there is more to beef cattle than just showing. One must take the time to watch and listen to effectively learn and improve upon their skills and tactics.

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Sparkles, fancy boots, and added color are just fun extras of showing cattle, the real fun is showing off the daily hard work once you walk into the show ring.

This past week and upcoming week are filled with days spent at the Ohio State Fair working a putt putt course that helps to give scholarships to college students, as well as watching beef cattle shows and talking to fair goers and youth about the beef industry.

As I walked into senior showmanship the other morning, I could not help but notice the array of younger kids standing ringside or sitting in the bleachers watching their older peers and the judge as they battled for the top showman position. I have learned throughout my years of showing that you can learn just as much outside the ring than you can standing in it.

From the point of view of looking at the situation of each individual showman from an outward appearance, you have the ability to watch others and nitpick on their showmanship tactics and skills and learn what you yourself should do or try to help make your show animal look better for the judge. By standing or sitting back, you also have the ability to see multiple showers and animals and watch and compare, as well as learn what the particular judge judging the show likes and does not like. It is important as you watch, listen, take notes, and learn to keep open perspective of how others show. All animals entering the show ring have different personalities and were raised in different environments, and the same goes for the showers. Some showman learned different tactics than others and while watching a show it is most important to simply study how other showman work around the space in the ring and keep their animal calm to show their best to the judge.

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Youth of the beef industry taking the time to attend a show clinic to learn some tips and tricks prior to showing their animals.

Taking the time to watch, at whatever age of shower, parent, or spectator you might be, allows you to BE THE JUDGE. This is one of the most important parts of watching a show. You have the ability to watch the same show as the judge and formulate your own reasons and opinions for placing the way you choose, and by doing this you learn what is most important to you while showing and then as a shower yourself you can start implementing that piece. It is also important to really take the time to listen to the judges’ reasons for placing the way he did because you learn what he is and is not looking for in the showers.

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Youth of all ages can engage in shows and learn from watching others and listening to the judge give reasons for his placements. Taking the time to stop, watch, and listen can really pay off in the end!

The best way to learn is to watch and listen multiple times, as well as learn to be the judge yourself. It is amazing how much one can learn by taking the time to step away from the halter and take the time to stand ringside.

 

Happy Tuesday!

Demi

 

Why I am Crazy About Cattle

When you are overwhelmingly passionate about something it can sometimes be difficult to translate that passion into words. Here is my attempt to articulate my passion.
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My passion for the beef community started when I took my first breath. Growing up on a multi-generation ranch, work was not an option. Even before I could walk, I was riding in the feed truck with my dad. Jobs started at a young age, because we needed the help. Regardless of the size of the job, each was critical to the success of our family business.
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God gave me something very special when He gave me my passion. I am who I am today because of my involvement in the beef community. From caring for sick cattle, I learned compassion. From working alongside my relatives, I gained unbreakable bonds with my family. From watching my father work, I learned how to learn. From watching cattle die, I learned what death is. From taking instruction, I learned how to listen. From making mistakes on the ranch, I learned the importance of constructive criticism. From watching my father in business deals, I learned integrity. From old ranchers, I learned the importance of a firm handshake and confident eye contact. From persevering through the rough times, I gained character. From pulling baby calves in the middle of the night, I learned dedication.  From being surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of creation, I learned how big God is. All the good and bad times – they have helped cultivate me into who I am today.
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It breaks my heart to walk the halls with seniors in college who have absolutely no idea what they want to do in life. They wake up in the morning feeling complacent with no direction and no motivation, and go to sleep feeling hopeless and lost. I wish I knew how to gift or teach these people passion. I wish I could give them something that would spark in them a flame, something that would get them out of bed in the mornings, something that the very thought of not taking action would make them unbearably uncomfortable, but I can’t instill that. Each person must find that individually.
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I had every intention of giving you three simple bullet points about why I love beef, but my passion goes much deeper than a few bleak sentences; rather it is tied to every fiber of my being. So for me to put it into words is for me to truly reflect my innermost motivations.
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Moral of the Story: Yes, I consider myself very blessed to have an overwhelming passion for the beef community that motivates me to work very hard to make a positive difference every day. But whether you are passionate about helping people, organizing files, working with technology, or anything, find what gets you out of bed in the morning.

God bless, folks!

 

Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe

 

Educating for the Future

Educating kids is one of my greatest passions, and when you can educate them about beef – well, that just makes it all the more special!  From mentoring 4-H projects to going in the classroom, you can certainly count me in!  Did you know that the last real interaction and learning experience most people have with agriculture is in First or Second grade?

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When I went back to Arizona this past month, I organized a Beef Demo Day, in which we had the Sonoita-Elgin Elementary students come to our “Ranch” and learn about cattle.  Grades K-6 were alive with energy and very excited to get to see and touch real, live cattle.  I organized 5 different stations that covered a variety of topics about beef.

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Dressing up as a “Calf”

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At the first station, students talked about how cows are different from kids.  Long tails to swat flies, rough tongues for grabbing grass, and thick hides to protect them from the elements were some of the differences noted.

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The next stations talked in depth about the aspects of showing cattle and the duties of a cowboy or cowgirl and their horse on a cattle ranch!

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Finally, students were able to touch different feedstuffs and learn about why we feed cattle those things before making their own “Cow Chow Snack” to eat.

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Mackenzie Kimbro – AZ Beef Ambassador, Carolyn Wemlinger – Nogales River Cowbelles, Sam Donaldson – Area Rancher Extraordinaire, Tiffany Selchow – Arizona Beef Council, Alicia Smith – National Beef Ambassador, Pat Evans – Elgin-Sonoita Cowbelles

Of course, none of this would have been possible without some amazing, and passionate, volunteers!  A huge thanks to them for sharing my love of beef and making sure we educate our future!

From the Heart of Beef,

Alicia

Fluffy Cows 

Last year pictures of groomed cattle dubbed “fluffy cows” went viral on the Internet and were an overnight success. Many people who aren’t familiar with cattle or perhaps had only seen commercial cattle grazing were interested to see this new type of cow. Growing up around show cattle, I thought the concept was funny to say the least, but it’s definitely a neat segment of the beef industry to take a look at. Here’s a quick overview of the “fluffy cows.”

Fluffy cows are just highly groomed cattle that experience the best of care.

Fluffy cows are just highly groomed cattle that experience the best of care.

Fluffy cows are not a single breed. Contrary to what some comments on pictures and blogs might lead you to believe, fluffy cows are simply cattle that are more groomed than average. Many of them are purebred breeds, such as the recognizable Angus, but many are crossbred between two or more breeds.

OK…so how are they so fluffy? Fluffy cows get their fluff from intense levels of grooming. Many are washed and dried multiple times a day to keep them clean and brushed to provide the best conditions for hair growth. Most are also kept under fans or in air-conditioned rooms called coolers to keep them cool with all that hair. When at shows or other events, hair spray and adhesive may be used to stand the hair up – similar to some older human hairstyles!

Part of the "fluffy" process is frequent baths and blow drying.

Part of the “fluffy” process is frequent baths and blow drying.

Fluffy cows receive the pinnacle of care. Between multiple baths a day, a highly monitored feeding regimen of top notch feeds, spending the day relaxing in an air-conditioned barn and receiving constant grooming and other care, fluffy cows definitely lead a pampered life. While animal welfare is critical on all farming operations, fluffy cows go above and beyond to provide the best possible care for their animals.

So why? With all the work that goes into keeping fluffy cows so fluffy it’s easy to ask, “Why bother?” Fluffy cows are show cattle that spend the first two years of their lives being shown in livestock fairs and exhibitions, often through programs like 4-H and FFA. The project of showing livestock introduces kids to the farm, cattle and helps teach the value of hard work from a young age.

Showing cattle teaches kids valuable life lessons such as the value of hard work and that everything doesn't always go your way.

Showing cattle teaches kids valuable life lessons such as the value of hard work and that everything doesn’t always go your way.

What happens when they are finished showing? When cattle turn two years old, they are generally too old to show in most fairs. Some allow older cattle to show with their calf, but for most fluffy cows after they turn two they are demoted to just cows. They’ll spend the remainder of their life in the field like any other cow and hopefully one of their calves can be a fluffy cow too.

Will Pohlman

Take Time to Educate

As a part of being not only a National Beef Ambassador, but also a beef producer, my parents have always told me how important it is to educate my “city cousins”. Whether at the county fair or sitting around a school lunch table, as producers working for the betterment of the beef industry, we can all do our part and take the time to talk, answer questions, and show some of the daily tasks that happen on the farm-and what better way to do that than by having our consumers visit the farm and get a “hands-on” experience around the cattle.

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Allowing our friends or fair-goers to stop and pet our animals shows them that the cattle are calm and non-aggressive animals.

Consumers today are four to five generations removed from farm life and continue to move further away from farming and raising livestock because of the vast array of career opportunities one has to pursue now. The one commonality between all people, no matter their background is that we all need food to survive, and understanding where your food comes from, not that it just happens to be on a grocery store shelf, is very important. As an advocate for the beef industry and an Agricultural Communications major, I find great pride in sharing with consumers where and how they are able to consume the food they do.

This past weekend I invited a friend home to learn more about the type of life I grew up loving-farm life! Although she had been to the county fair and has heard me talk about birthing season, weaning season, and show season, I wanted to invite her to spend time on the farm to ask questions about how we raise our cattle, as well as help complete the daily tasks that all farmers and ranchers do to ensure their cattle herds are safe and healthy.

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Living in the corn belt of Ohio, on my farm we feed corn to our cattle as a part of a complete total mixed rational diet. We continuously talk to our nutritionist to ensure the ratios for our steers, heifers, and cows are appropriate for their age and body weight.

 

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Feeding the cattle is the most important part of being a farmer. Without clean fresh water and feed our cattle would not be healthy and able to produce such a safe, wholesome, and nutritious product!

At the end of the day, it is making sure we make a valuable connection to our consumers. As a beef industry we talk about being transparent and having “our barn doors open” to invite consumers in to see our farms and experience and understand what it is we do to maintain positive heard health. As a producer and consumer myself I find it very beneficial when the time is taken to invite someone over that did not grow up raising livestock and give them an education about feeding and caring for cattle. Educating others about where their food comes from and the process from birth to harvest is important, and by taking the time to invite my friend home with me to have a “hands-on” experience on the farm allowed her to see first-hand the dedication and hard work farmers and their families put in every day striving for the best cattle heard and ultimately the best product for consumers and their families to enjoy.

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Being transparent as beef producers is important. We always have our barn doors open and are willing to talk with and invite our consumers to spend some time on the farm understanding where their food comes from.

I encourage you to talk with a local beef producer near you and ask to visit their farm if you have questions about the beef industry or the process of ‘farm-to-fork’.

Happy Tuesday!
Demi

 

Don’t Forget the Forgotten Rock Stars

Everyone likes to be recognized. There is something in us that strives for accomplishment. This week I attended a few awards banquets hosted by my college and department. At these banquets, alumna who had done extraordinary things, or donated copious amounts of money, were recognized and applauded. I found myself becoming a touch irritated.

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Please do not misunderstand me, I absolutely love being apart of my university, college of ag. and animal science department family. And I am very grateful for their support and their awesome contributions. But somewhere within the multiple recognitions, I couldn’t help but think of the many farmers and ranchers who work so hard every day, and yet receive little to no acknowledgement.

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Beef producers have a record of working never-ending hours and sacrificing social engagements to provide for their cattle. I can remember the many church services, family reunions, school receptions, and dinner dates I had to miss to get calves back in, treat a sick animal or feed mama cows.

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They may not have discovered a new strain of unnamed bacteria, or donated millions of dollars to build a new building, but ranchers still devote a whole lot of time, effort, and commitment to providing us with the safe, wholesome, and nutritious beef we love. A simple “thank-you” goes a long way in expressing gratitude.

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Moral of the story: those who make the biggest impact do not always receive the biggest recognition. Be thankful for the small things. Look for the people who are the silent servants. Be grateful for the people who may not have the most “important” title, but who contribute to us being able to enjoy the little things. Remember, do not serve for the recognition. Serve to make a positive difference.

#ThankaRancher

God bless, folks!

 

Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe 

Life on a Farm

Yesterday I brought a friend home for dinner and to help with chores while my brother is away for spring break. He has never lived or worked on a farm and has little experience with cattle but he was willing to learn. Here is what he had to say about life on a farm.

While cattle dogs can be great help, sometimes they can be a little difficult to handle.

While cattle dogs can be great help, sometimes they can be a little difficult to handle.

Farm work is a great way to stay active. Staying fit and healthy should be on everyone’s mind, but my friend found that working on a farm is much more interesting than spending time in a sweaty gym. Between hauling feed buckets, moving fifty pound feed bags and chasing an unruly calf across a field, working on a farm can build up quite a sweat.

Animals are unpredictable at best. While my friend was visiting, we discovered a calf needed to be treated for pinkeye, an infection of the eye that can lead to blindness if left untreated. Running the calf to the corral, however, proved to be easier said than done, with the calf darting away from the group and running away again and again. Dogs occasionally chasing cows further added to the chaotic situation.

Farmers are committed to care. Despite all the trouble the calf caused, we were committed to treating it – even if we all grumbled about how much trouble the calf was. The alternative to treatment simply was unacceptable. My friend discovered firsthand how caring for animals is a farmer’s first priority.

Pinkeye is a common ailment to calves that requires antibiotic treatment.

Pinkeye is a common ailment to calves that requires antibiotic treatment.

My biggest takeaway from the experience of having a friend visit was the lack of familiarity of what I would consider basic farm knowledge. Not to say my friend isn’t intelligent, he simply lacked experience. Knowing, for instance, that sheep shouldn’t be fed cattle mineral due to copper toxicity issues seems commonplace to someone who grew up on a farm, but is a simple mistake for someone who hasn’t.  But for all his inexperience, my friend was able to learn quickly. He understood, for instance, why antibiotics are necessary to treat conditions that are common for calves and has newfound understanding of the challenges of raising cattle without them.

Farmers are opening their barn doors to let people know how their food is raised.

Farmers are opening their barn doors to let people know how their food is raised.

If anything, my friend’s experience has shown me the importance of opening up the farm for interested people. Producers, be willing to show people around and even have them volunteer help with easy tasks if they so desire. Consumers, if knowing where your food comes from interests you, reach out to nearby farmers and ask to visit – you never know what opportunities may arise and the worst response is a no.

Life on a farm is full of surprises, but it shouldn’t be a mystery or fantasy of those who don’t personally reside on one.

Will Pohlman

5 People You Didn’t Know Owned Cattle

Take a moment, close your eyes, and conjure an image of what you think a rancher looks like.  Think about the sex of your character, their stature, the way they talk, the clothes they wear and what they are doing.  If I had to guess, this is something along the line of what you pictured:

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The person you are thinking of is most likely male, wears Wrangler Jeans, Chaps and scuffed up boots.  He sits upon his horse, lasso in hand, wearing a dirty button up shirt and dusty hat.  This man might have a fashionable handlebar mustache and probably talks with a southern accent.  He might “guffaw” and spit, too.

Now, let’s try another exercise.  Out of the pictures below, can you pick out the rancher?

 

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You probably picked out the dashing fellow in the lower left.  While Mr. Dean Fish is a terrific friend of mine and even better cattleman, he is not the winner in this contest.  All the photos above are cattlemen and women.  We like to travel, explore and have fun just as much as anyone!

  • TL: Rachel visiting France on her study abroad trip
  • TR: Alicia having trouble pinning the flowers on her prom date
  • Middle: Kalyn and her family enjoying a cruise
  • BL: Dean Fish at a Cattlemen’s Conference
  • BR: Will spending time in Ghana

Appearances can be deceiving, and beef cattle producers seem to be masters of disguise!  It is important to remember they are no different than you and I.  They have families, get nervous over school dances, worry about bills, enjoy vacations and most importantly take part in community activities.  They are not only men, but we have a growing population of women ranchers, as well as youth!

From the Heart of Beef,

Alicia

 

 

 

Calving Season is Here!

Around the country, and at my own operation, calving season is beginning!  Producers usually time-breed their animals so that they will all calve out within a two month period, reducing labor costs and ensuring a uniform calf crop!

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“Little Miss Sass”

 

 

Calving season means two things – lots of excitement and very little sleep!  When it comes down to the week that my cow is due, we watch her carefully for signs of calving – swishing tails, discomfort, mucus, and filling of her udder.  If we see all these signs, we know that she is close to having her calf and will probably calve out within 48 hours!  We get up every few hours every night to make sure she isn’t having any trouble if she does start.  Making sure our cows and calves are healthy and happy is top priority for all producers!

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A full Udder, Restlessness and Mucus around the tail are indicators a calf is coming soon!

 

After she calves, we separate our cow into a different pen to make sure she gets plenty to eat and her calf isn’t bullied by the other cows.  Not all operations do this, but because we are so small, it’s possible for us!  We check to make sure the calf is nursing, as it needs to receive all the “good stuff” such as immunoglobulins, and easily digestible nutrients contained in colostrum.  If the weather is bad, we will make sure that the calf is warm and mom and baby have shelter to stay out of the storm.  It is very important to make sure the cow has easy access to water, as she will be very thirsty and tired after the long process of calving.  The most important part though is to make sure everyone is doing okay and then to leave the cow alone.  We want her to bond with her baby and not cause her any stress.

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Our cow wanted to make sure the camera was safe to have around her calf!

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Receiving colostrum is important to the future growth potential and immune system of that calf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, we eartag our calves for identification purposes and give them another once over to make sure they are still nursing and look healthy.  Calving season is one of my favorite times of the year!  Spending time with the babies (given that Momma is okay with this) is lots of fun, and for show cattle is an integral part of making them good show calves later on in life.

 

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Spending time with calves ensures they are used to humans and being handled

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Taking selfies with Ms. Elsie a.k.a. “The Princess of Everything”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Heart of Beef,

 

Alicia