Have youth livestock shows turned to competitive and unethical practices being used?

“Competition is what puts the fire in your eye to bring you back week after week. People that do unethical practices have no place in the show ring, because you are not truly a winner if you do it by cheating.”

Recently, my family spent the weekend at the NAILE (North American Livestock Expo) in Louisville, Kentucky. My family participated in the youth Ayrshire dairy show. Austin Pueschel, a local youth from Michigan made the cut for the top five in the senior swine showmanship.

During the competition the judge gave an envelope with a question to the top five youth to answer on the microphone in front of the audience. The questions were random and not related to the swine, but more related to the industry as a whole. The question that caught my attention was the one that Austin got to answer: Have youth livestock shows turned to competitive and unethical practices being used?

Austin answered his question very well by saying, “Competition is what puts the fire in your eye to bring you back week after week. People that do unethical practices have no place in the show ring because you are not truly a winner if you do it by cheating.”

During the summer my family spends time showing goats at youth livestock jackpot shows. We spend hours in the barn, walking, clipping and getting ready for the various shows, leading up to the competition which is a family event. We spend our entire Saturday showing, eating and laughing at the various shows.

Going back to the question that Austin had to answered, yes – there is competition in livestock shows but this is what keeps the families coming back every weekend. When a healthy competition turns into unethical practices, the line should be drawn. Those in the livestock industry need to do everything we can to educate the non-livestock audience about our industry. When unethical practices are used, it makes the livestock industry look bad. This question was posed on Facebook, and many people felt that children themselves can be competitive and end in positive results. When parents get involved, it tends to turn a healthy youth competition for the worse, especially when jealousy is involved.

Parents need to teach their children healthy ways to be competitive. My article, “What do youth sports teach our children anyway” discusses the life lessons that children learn from competition. The life lesson that Blaine, my oldest son had to deal with at NAILE was sportsmanship in winning and losing. Blaine had won almost every competition that he had participated in during the summer. When we went to NAILE his animal placed last and he did not place in showmanship. This was rough at first. Blaine cried and was upset, but learning to lose with grace keeps you humble and it’s a life skill that goes beyond childhood and into adulthood.

The other awesome part to livestock competitions that Michigan State University Extension encourages are the friendships. During this particular summer we met Austin, and during our 4-H youth fair were able to help mentor him to be able to show dairy cattle during the Showmanship Sweepstakes competition, in which he won. Blaine watched Austin throughout the summer and has started to think of him as a role model. As a parent, this is what you like to see, your children looking up to older children that are on the right road; livestock competitions are the perfect place for these types of role models.

When thinking about activities to get your children involved in, think about your local Michigan 4-H or Future Farmers of America program.

Be sure to read part one of this article, “What is your fondest 4-H and/or FFA memory?

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