Show Up or Show Out

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A feature on the competitive nature of livestock showing for the youth that participate. 

After spending a few weeks in the show and commercial livestock industry, my understanding of the industry has shifted drastically. The focus on enriching the youth is incredible. There’s a strong desire to foster independence, creativity and all-around capability in children starting early. 

I chatted with many youngsters over coloring pages and temporary tattoos at the BioZyme® Inc. booth. I watched them be wild and silly and everything that comes with being a kid. I wondered how they could be entrusted with the lead of an animal 13 times heavier than them. Not to mention a heifer’s strength, rebellious attitude and the financial implications of each showing. But everything changes in the ring. 

The animal-child bond is pure and simple. They lock eyes occasionally; glances founded in trust, but today, glazed with nerves. The kids look to their parents for guidance, wanting nothing more than to make them proud. 

That yearning to bring pride to their family drives a focus that takes shape in a furrowed brow and taut chest as they guide their massive cattle around the ring. These children are impressive and will no doubt, be successful adults whether in livestock or elsewhere. 

Being intrigued by the tenacity of these young people, I sought out two members of the Sure Champ Leadership Team to help me understand what drives them. First, was Emerson Tarr, a 17-year-old living in central Illinois. 

Tarr began showing cattle at age 3. It is a family tradition that’s nearly a century old. 

She and her cousins enjoy the activity as a group.  

“One time a friend called us Tarrnation and it just stuck. We’ve even had t-shirts made,” Tarr said. 

Outside of the ring, Tarr is very involved. She participates in the Illinois Junior Simmental Association, the American Junior Simmental Association, and plays three sports. 

 “I run cross country and track as well as play basketball, but showing cattle has always been my favorite sport,” Tarr said. 

The competitive edge is what draws her in. As a self-described adrenaline junkie, she loves the rush of stepping into the ring. 

Tarr also spoke about the familial aspect of the livestock community. It has allowed her to make friends, meet industry leaders and become a mentor. The pandemic has demonstrated the strength of the group as they have rallied around each other in these difficult times. 

Another lead motivator for many cattle showing youth is the job skill development that takes place. Tarr has become especially good at balancing a busy schedule and working hard as well as becoming more outgoing and well-spoken.  

The cattle showing environment, while fun, is often a precursor to a career in agriculture.  

“Knowing every time I show is a way to get my name and face out there is a big motivator,” Tarr said. 

She hopes to continue in agriculture and work with youth in the community. Relationships at these events can create helpful connections for her future like contacts for breeding stock and improving herd genetics as well as college scholarships and corporate opportunities. 

I also spoke with 20-year-old Hannah Tremaine from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Tremaine’s family began their operation in 2002, and she has been working with cattle practically every day since. 

Leading up to a show, she spends countless hours feeding, rinsing and drying, conditioning hair and rehearsing showing technique with her animals. 

 “When I get to a show, I want to know I did everything I could to prepare my cattle for success,” Tremaine said. 

Tremaine has a similar mindset to Tarr when it comes show time. She is intensely focused and competitive in the ring. The pressure propels her to work hard, but she doesn’t mind because showing cattle is her passion. 

Over the years, Tremaine has interacted with many cattle.  

“I’ve had a different relationship with every animal I’ve shown,” she shared, “It’s been fun to interact with so many calves in my life because each one has a different personality.” 

Showing livestock has taught Tremaine a great deal, and she plans to apply her skillset to a career in speech pathology. She also desires to own and operate a small herd of beef cattle like the one she was raised on.  

“I am confident livestock will be in my future in some way, shape or form.” 

Soon, Tremaine will age out of junior showing. Instead, she will become a 4-H leader for the beef and swine projects in her county.  

“I’ve learned a lot of information in my years as a showman. I am very excited to share my knowledge with the next generation of kids and watch them develop into dedicated and passionate individuals,” Tremaine said. 

The impact the livestock industry has on its youngest members is unique and should be celebrated. My time at livestock shows taught me that hard work, responsibility and a couple calves are all it takes to turn a young child into a flourishing adult. 

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