Lambs, Livestock Shows and Life Lessons

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Emma Bruner Shows her lamb at the Obion County Fair livestock show.

-Emma Bruner-

          For the past nine summers, livestock shows have been a hobby of mine. I not only view showing my livestock as a fun activity, but I also see it as a summer job. It has taught me responsibility and independence. It’s also given me several great laughs over the years. Livestock you might see at a show includes cattle, hogs, chickens, and my personal favorite, lambs. Working with lambs is how I got my start. I am just one of many kids of all ages in Weakley and Obion County who are involved in some way with livestock.

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Sam McMinn preparing his steer for showing.

            Every summer, I am always faced with the same question, “So, Emma, do you have a summer job this year?” Well, in a way, I do have a summer job. Working with my lambs is a job all its own. A person cannot expect to get an animal and immediately have it completely ready to walk into the show ring. A great deal of preparation goes into showing livestock.

For example, I have to choose my lamb and buy it. I always want to make sure I choose a well-rounded animal, but, don’t worry, I am not going to get very technical about it. Each breed has specific qualities. Every judge will want something different. There are all kinds of books and websites that show what to look for when choosing a show animal.

The hardest, and probably my least favorite part of the process, is halter-breaking my animal. It can be a long, treacherous process with some animals or a simple task with others. It basically boils down to their temperament. Believe me, they can be stubborn. After they are used to the halter, it becomes more fun. Everything else falls into place. In order to raise a prize-winning show animal, it is necessary to exercise in order to build muscle.

As the show nears, the grooming process will start. This procedure is known as fitting the animal. For me, that means I must shear my lambs. I remember the first time my dad let me shear my own lamb. It was a very nerve-wracking experience but definitely something I will never forget. But how many 18-year-olds can say they have sheared a lamb?

The show is my favorite part. Dusting off my boots, tying my ribbon in my hair, tucking my button-up shirt into my jeans, and buckling my rhinestone belt is how I prepare myself for a livestock show. When I enter the ring, it is like everything else fades away. It is just my animal, the judge, and me. I focus on the judge, set my animal up, and await the judge’s decision. It also never hurts to know your animal’s strengths and weaknesses because the judge may ask questions while in the ring.

I have not won every show I have been in. In fact, I have several ninth-, tenth-, and even eleventh-place ribbons. But I love to show for the fun of it. Like my mom always told me, “Those last place ribbons are just character builders.” The good times have come, though. I have been blessed by winning Showmanship and Reserved Grand Champion. Just like in football, sometimes you have a good game, and sometimes you have a bad game. Livestock shows are like that. In the end, it is so rewarding to receive that first place ribbon or my very own check when I sell my animal.

            Livestock shows are not just about the animals. I enjoy meeting new people and making friendships that will last a lifetime. Going to a livestock show is like going to a family reunion, as I usually only get to see my show friends in the summer. I have built many great relationships through this hobby.

             I encourage any young person to get involved with livestock showing early on. As I begin my last year as a livestock shower, I can honestly say it flies by. It is an experience that I have loved taking part in, and I would not trade the friendships or life lessons for anything.