Beyond the Winner’s Circle

Hey everyone, I know it has been awhile since you have heard from me, but my senior year has been jammed pack and I have endured some technological difficulties. Hopefully, I can get back on the saddle and be more frequent with my postings. Until then,  I wanted to share the article I wrote for the November issue of the Shorthorn country. Thought it was something everyone could use a reminder about. Hope you enjoy!

Now I will be the first to admit that I love winning and am one of the most competitive people you might meet; and as much as I love winning, I equally hate losing. However, there comes a point when we let winning get the best of us and forget about the real reasons and lessons we are doing something. As the fall show season approaches I find it time for a little reminder in ethics and the lessons learned outside the show ring.

I am not going to single out any certain person, but we as a Shorthorn family have let winning get the best of us. For some families in our industry ethics has flown out the window and their eyes are set only on the purple banner at the end of the show. They are willing to break any rule, cheat, use people, and even use bribery in order to win. Now I am not saying winning is a bad thing, but folks winning this way is not something to be proud of. Especially when related to the youth of our breed.

The saying, “actions speak louder than words” comes to mind here and I think we have forgotten what the real reason is behind a “junior” project. Young minds are easily molded and we have failed in the examples we have been setting. When a junior begins his showing career it is supposed to be a learning experience- learning how to show, how to care for his animal, how to prepare his animal, etc. and if by chance they win along the way that is great, if not they have learned a great deal and next year will know they need to work harder and make different decisions in order to be more successful. As their junior career progresses the idea is that their skills and show ring success progress as they begin to build their herd and make breeding decisions. This “ideal junior career” has long ago loaded up in a boat and sailed far away. Nowadays many junior projects begin by a family spending a rather large sum of money, letting the breeder keep the animal and having professionals work on it, and showing up at the show and leading it in the ring. If that junior doesn’t win then family is mad and the junior seeks out another breeder who they think can take them to the winner circle. What has the junior learned from this experience? That money is the ticket?

I don’t know about you but I hate to see the future of our junior programs if we continue this pattern. If a junior takes on the responsibility of purchasing and owning an animal they should also assume the responsibility of daily care for the animal. I am not opposed to having professional help, but I am opposed to an animal never being in the care of the owner or even the STATE OF RESIDENCE of an owner. Too many youth today have lost the value of hard work and responsibility as technology has advanced in ways we never thought possible, if we continue this “trend” found in our junior program we too are donating to the cause. Catering to tomorrow’s leaders makes me scared to what my lay ahead for not only the Shorthorn breed, but our country.

We are not creating future breeders through this method, but accelerating the process of extinction. Through cheating and the greed of being on top, we are bringing more burdens upon the livestock industry. If a junior is not getting an “experience” through his show career and is not learning any lessons that they feel have molded them as an individual, then why would the share this with future children.  Already the average American is several generations away from the farm and with those of us who are still linked we should be doing all that we can to enhance a positive experience and learning opportunity for youth across the country to ensure a livestock industry and more importantly a thriving Shorthorn breed of the future.

As I draw closer to the end of my junior career I am able to reflect at the blood, sweat and tears I have shed working on my junior projects, but I can also swell with pride as I reflect on when those hard times turned into victory. I may never lead a National Champion or sell a $50,000 heifer (or buy one), but I have learned the value of hard work, responsibility, time management, leadership qualities, and dedication and as a result my family has guided me down a path where red, white and roan runs through every drop of my blood and will be in my life for as long as a live. As a breeder, it is your RESPONSIBILITY to ensure that same passion into each and every individual you market an animal to and help “guide” them in their junior career instead of DOING the work for them.

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