15 Things All Livestock Showmen Understand
I've been showing cattle since I was ten years old.
Ever since I was old enough to fill my summers with activity, I have been in a barn every moment possible. When I entered junior high, I realized that not everyone fills their time with showing livestock...which I still don't fully understand.
I know that I'm not alone in this passion, so here are 15 things that only people who show cattle understand!
1. Spending all of our time in the barn
Livestock have to be clean and cool. There's more to showing livestock than leading them around the ring. Extra phone chargers, pop/water, and of course the stereo and jackets are kept available.
2. Replacing water parks with wash racks
Unless it's a special occasion (or the show happens to have a water park on sight), we spend summers cooling off on the wash rack. Whether it is twice daily rinsing, a crowded wash rack on show morning, or a good ole water fight, we find creative ways to stay cool!
3. Feeling accomplished by our non-traditional workouts
Personally, I'd love to wake up at 5 a.m. and get a full workout in, but my joints already ache enough from exercising cattle, squatting or kneeling down to work leg hair, loading the trailer, and unloading a ton of feed by hand. The days that also combine ranch work like fixing fence and pulling windmills give us that extra push!
4. Taking family vacations to junior nationals
The first time we left the state without cattle, I didn't know what to do with myself. I love traveling, but I don't see the joy in going to museums when we can be in an awesome facility in a different city, working together on our business, surrounded by friends from across the country.
5. Long distance friendships are normal
Our high school friends freak out when someone moves away or we graduate and head to different schools, and we reassure everyone that it's fine because our best friend since age 7 has lived across the country and we've made it work quite well.
6. All the weird looks in Walmart
Hi, yes, I need an entire cart of food because I have a family and crew to feed for a week at a cattle show and we don't exactly take normal meal breaks. Yes, all of this shampoo and hair dye is for me - I mean, for my cattle. Carry on.
7. Getting frustrated that showing livestock isn't considered a sport
We don't exactly have tournaments, but most of our shows are state or national level. We put in as much or more hours than traditional athletes, and we can't use words to communicate with our teammates. Hours upon hours go into training a competitive animal, from its appearance and health to its actions in the ring.
8. Free t-shirts for days
I'm all about show ring style, but I also like getting matching t-shirts to show in. Wearing them at different events or around campus is a great way to start conversations and make friends, and to show support for agriculture. Eventually, I can probably make three t-shirt quilts, but I don't know which Sure Champ shirts to stop wearing.
Ah, the sound of a barn. Whether it is at home or at a show, the whir of fans, swish of blowers, and echo of tunes always makes me excited. I have pre-showing songs that I listen to as a pump-up to get in the zone. Barn music varies depending on whose playlist is up and whose stalls are nearest. Personally, my barn playlist ranges from CoJo to King George and from T. Swift to Flo Rida.
10. Scheduling everything around livestock
We invest a majority of our time into this way of life, so it takes priority over a lot of activities. It can be frustrating to miss a trip to the river with friends because there is a show coming up, but we wouldn't trade the experiences that we have through showing livestock for the world.
11. Paying attention to detail
Whether this is being observant, such as one animal picking all of a supplement out of their feed or being analytical, such as how high to hold their head or how fast to walk them, we want every detail to be perfect.
12. Going the extra mile for our animals
Putting Kool-Aid in their filtered water, ice wraps on them to keep cool, and keeping the barn cooler than our house are examples of how we give them the best care possible. Although these animals all have a purpose for either breeding or market, we care for them as best as we are able.
13. Having our own language
"Pulling legs" "sticking a calf" "driving" "working hair" to name a few phrases that carry more meaning to livestock showmen than others. It's a frequent occurrence to have friends ask us to explain what we said.
14. Competing against our friends and colleagues.
We're about the only industry that partakes in competition for both fun and business simultaneously. As intense as the competition may be, we are there to hug whomeveris named champion and help each other. I've cried as many times for others' success as I have my own.
15. Looking forward to a few events all year
Whether we are pushing an animal for a certain show or excited to see our stock show family, cattle shows and conferences are few and far between compared to other hobbies.
Cover photo courtesy of Montana Ag Photography