Competitive nature and livestock enthusiast are two terms that go hand in hand. During the winter and early spring, this is on full display as livestock exhibitors travel up and down the state and across the country to attend jackpot shows. For consecutive weekends, livestock families pull to shows, spend their time bundled in layers, rely on bucket heaters to keep water from freezing and have their aerosol cans ready for action. With weekend jackpot shows consisting of long days, unpredictable weather, and a long work week to travel back to, it might seem like only crazy people would make the haul for these shows. Yet when you break down the advantages, there are four reasons why jackpot shows are so valuable to attend:
- Trial and error
Most livestock exhibitors have an end goal in mind. They might dream of winning their county show, their state fair or maybe even a banner at a national exhibition. While these ambitious dreams are great to think about, every accomplished end goal started with a beginner’s trial run. Jackpot shows provide the perfect opportunity to get your new livestock out for their very first time. It gives them a chance to travel to a new place for a show, experience some time in the ring and get one show under their belt so they are ready to behave better at the next one. If you keep you animals at home their whole life and take them out for the first time at you “end goal” point, there’s a good chance they won’t react well and what you have been dreaming about can easily be crushed due to bad behavior or animals going off feed and water.
Not only do your livestock need to get used to being at a show and getting through the ring, but you need a chance to get more familiar with your new livestock! Whether you are a seasoned veteran, or this is your first livestock project, getting on the end of the halter or whip with a new animal takes some time to get used to, as no two animals will show the same. While you should always get plenty of practice at home with that animal, nothing beats the real-life experience of being in the ring at an actual show. The more times you attend a jackpot show and get in the ring, the more comfortable you will be with your animal’s tendencies while showing and the better you will be able to work with those tendencies to get your animals presented at the highest level.
- Practice makes perfect
Chances are, if you are just starting out, show day preparation may seem stressful, hectic and maybe even a bit of a nightmare. However, the only way you get better at planning ahead for getting your livestock showring ready is to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. If you want to get better at fitting a leg or getting skin and hair just right, attending numerous shows will give you a chance to do just that. If you struggle to know when to start getting ready to make it to your class on time, having a few trial runs at different shows can help you discover the perfect time to start. There are so many things to learn each and every time you show, from what to feed the morning of, how much water to give them, when to start getting ready, how long you need to head up to the ring and so much more.
- Get some opinions on your stock
While all opinions may vary, getting feedback from various judges at different shows can give you some ideas on where your animal is and if there are management decisions you can make to help improve your animal. A judge’s perspective can help you better understand the animal you have and what you can do to maximize its potential. Maybe your animal is a little too green and skinny and you need to push it harder on feed. Or maybe your animal is a little too far along in its condition at an early stage and the type of feed you are giving them needs to be adjusted. These comments, while they may be critical, can help you better evaluate the way you care for your animal and help you make some changes to improve for the next outing. Likewise, this also can help you get a better idea of the competition you will be against all year, whether it be in a breed, age break or similar weight division. By getting your livestock out and in a class, you can see how you compare and stack up to the others.
- Find your weekend warrior gang
Attending jackpot shows each weekend isn’t just about learning – it is also about building. Building relationships with other show families who understand what you do each weekend is so important for support, learning and maybe even your sanity! Finding that niche group of people who go to the same events you do and understand the importance of attending a few shows, will give you a group of friends to rely on and ask questions as you start to learn more. Amongst all of the things you will learn about showing livestock and preparation from this group of people, you will also discover great friendships. Each weekend you travel, you will see lots of familiar faces and chances are, those familiar faces will turn into lifelong friends. These are the people who understand why you travel every weekend and withstand the cold, because they are doing the same things for the same reasons.
Loading up and heading to a jackpot show every weekend can be a big undertaking. There is lots to learn for both you and your animal and things will not always go as planned. It often requires an investment of money, time, labor and sacrifices, but the payoff of your investment will be priceless.