By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — The start of the spring livestock show season begins the weekend, and youth exhibitors are prepping not only for the local show here in Newkirk, but the Kay County Junior Livestock Show next week in Blackwell, with hopefuls to compete at the Oklahoma Youth Expo (OYE) in March in Oklahoma City. Each exhibit begins at home though, as local 4-H and FFA members take personal care of their animal projects, showing they know what it takes to raise, and show, an animal in the show ring.
The Local Livestock Show will be this Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Kay County Farm Youth Center, Eighth and Elm in Newkirk. The Kay County Junior Livestock Show will follow next week, Feb. 20-24 at the Kay County Fairgrounds, Blackwell. The awards banquet will be Friday evening in the Kay County Expo Center.
The animals exhibited by the students are as varied as the students themselves, representing what they want to show in the ring.
Makenna Morgan shows a cross hog. Her sister, Haley, prefers goats, showing a doe this year. Trenton Scott has two cattle projects, both a heifer and a steer. Logan Rhea is showing both cattle and hogs.
Like a family pet, a dog or a cat, there is responsibility that goes into the project. For a livestock project, though, it goes much deeper, to give tender loving care to a much larger animal. Scott has been showing animals for the past six years, both through 4-H and FFA.
“It takes a lot of work. For my cows, I wash and dry them every day,” he said. “You want their hair to be longer and looking better.”
Hygiene isn’t the only important aspect, as the animals must also know how to act in the ring.
“I have a pen and I walk with them in there,” he said. “I do that for about an hour a day.”
Beyond that, the livestock must also be fed, giving them a diet to help build up strength and the right build for the ring.
“I feed at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.,” he said.
It is exhausting hours, all dedicated to a show project a student displays in the hopes of winning the show.
The two most important shows are the local show, followed by the county level, both held in February. There are plenty of small practice shows leading up to the big events however, known as “jackpots.” Those are small shows held in little towns to give experience for the exhibit, or the animal itself, to prepare for the big events.
“I take them all over the place, sometimes even out of Oklahoma,” Scott said. “Before we go to OYE, we’ll take them to jackpots and get them used to being in the ring.”
When the local show, and later the county show hit, for the students it is time to enter the ring and show the crowd and judge what they and their animals can do.
“You just want to show everyone that you and your animal are good in the ring,” Makenna said.
There is much community support for the students and their beloved animals, not least of which in the business community. Much financial input is put into show projects, from equipment to feed and miles driven to shows. Businesses help offset that for many show exhibitors.
“Businesses can attend trophy auctions and sponsor the trophies,” said Kaycee Brandon, who herself once showed livestock in 4-H and FFA, along with brother Charlie. “Businesses can choose to donate money for each species, (adding a premium).”
While each community has an auction, there is another one that can help the exhibitors at a larger level, following the County Show.
“They also have, every year, a trophy auction and dinner during the evening. Businesses and individuals have an opportunity to bid on trophies for each species and also grand and reserve grand champion,” said Nila Brandon.
Standing in the ring, a student is proud to exhibit the animal they took so much time and care to nurture. At the end of the show, it is always about the presentation, showing the crowd they love their project, and want to present it, whatever breed or species, to those attending.
“There is a lot of responsibility,” Rhea said. “It feels really good, like all that work paid off.”