In much of our society, things are different than they ever have been before. However, 2021 was a much better year for young people who are involved in the livestock world. Shows happened without pause, show livestock are in demand and more programs and conferences were in-person instead of cancelled or virtual. Let’s recount some of the industry highlights of the past year.
The ideas of virtual shows were nice, and they filled a void for the competitive spirits within us, but they were not the same. This year, livestock exhibitors were able to attend shows in person, and even more shows were added to the calendar! The creation of shows like the Cattlemen’s Congress and even state and regional livestock expositions around the country created more opportunities for young people to showcase their animals, compete and see their friends.
In-person shows that took place this year were plentiful. Show staff and volunteers worked extra hard to make sure these events happened and that they were better than ever, especially if the show had to pivot or cancel in 2020 like the junior nationals or summer shows focused on youth. And, the exhibitors showed up, grateful for the opportunity to compete, be back in the ring and get the chance to work their way to the backdrop.
Livestock and Mentors are Plentiful
There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of good livestock, according to the sales advertised this fall, across all species. And the good news, once those animals are sold, most breeders and sellers want their customers to succeed so they are willing to offer advice and help after the sale. There is a plethora of people out there willing to share advice along the way because someone usually shared advice with them. The great thing about the livestock industry is although filled with fierce competitors, most everyone is also willing to lend a helping hand to help others accomplish their goals.
Leaders are being Built
In 2020, many of the regularly scheduled leadership conferences and events had to cancel or move to virtual events; however, this year they were back and better than ever! The National FFA Convention happened in person this fall, the breed association junior leadership events like Faces of Leadership and Leaders Engaged in Angus Development and others took place, and states are opening up to have in-person 4-H and FFA events again. These events are important to young people and having them in-person is especially important because it allows the youth to network, build relationships and explore career options and learn personal and professional development skills, like the value of a firm handshake.
Lemonade from Lemons
Though many think we will never go back to life as we knew it “pre-COVID,” things definitely are getting a little more normal, depending on where you live. However, with every situation where life hands you lemons, there have been some lemonade making opportunities. In other words, we’ve been able to take away some valuable lessons from the last 12-18 months that will make us better humans.
For example, we don’t have to crowd one another, nor do we need to judge one another. Everyone has a full schedule, multiple projects on their minds and activities to be at, so if something slips the mind or doesn’t get done, allow for some grace. If you see someone struggling, ask how you can assist. Regardless if we are in the checkout line at the supermarket or make-ready area at a show, allow for some space and be sure to extend the grace you would like to have given back to you.
Another valuable lesson is that we all need to take time for family and friends. Our industry as a whole understands the importance of relationships, both old and new, so cherish the time you get to spend with one another at shows, and especially during the forthcoming holidays. Be sure to let your friends and family know that you love them, and show them your feelings with a hug, secret handshake or fist bump every time you part ways.
Finally, don’t forget those two very important words – thank you. No doubt if you have shown livestock this year or attended a leadership conference, someone has helped get you there. A parent, grandparent, teacher, advisor, leader, sibling, friend or other relative likely drove you, maybe fed you, or even stayed home to do chores. Someone probably walked to the ring with you carrying a bucket of supplies or was there when the last “great one” loaded on to the truck after the sale.
While we can be thankful for many things in this industry in 2021, we need to always be thankful for the people who helped us along the way. Send a note, make a phone call. Stop by for a visit. Make sure you use those two little words. They mean a lot this year and every year.