As we get closer to our NETLA Junior Market Livestock Show (Feb 22,23 and 24) I wanted to share with you a little bit about the event. The North East Texas Livestock Association (NETLA) is a non-for-profit association created with the purpose of promoting youth development and is composed of volunteers, FFA advisors, 4-H leaders and myself, the Hopkins County Extension Agent. As an organization, we promote youth development during the year supporting project shows and the activities needed to conduct them. NETLA also works with committees to conduct state validations for major livestock show during the year.
According to Marty Vahlenkamp, Texas 4-H, livestock projects are important depending on goals and personal situations. I could give you the typical answer of it builds character- he said, creates discipline, teaches youth about agriculture, teaches sportsmanship, etc., etc. While all of that is true and right on point, I am not sure that it does justice to the core of what the 4-H Livestock Project can and does do for our youth. One of the greatest values of the 4-H Livestock Program is that it allows 4-H’ers the opportunity to gain confidence in themselves by caring for something that is 100% dependent on them.
I remember a young 4-H’er who was uncomfortable getting in a pen with the heifer that was to be his show heifer that year, but he had to because without him the heifer could not eat or drink and could not have a clean place to live. Over time, he gained the confidence he needed to complete the project. In the years since that heifer he has showed steers at our county show and major shows. Today, he no longer shows cattle, but is routinely asked to show for other exhibitors when they have multiple animals in the same class. While this 4-H’er learned how to show cattle, the important life lesson is the self-worth and confidence he gained that will help him get through tough spots in his life and challenges that lie ahead.
The other major value I see in the 4-H Livestock Project can be said in one word “Family”. When it is done right there is no better activity that promotes family time and the opportunity for a family to work side by side on a common goal. As surveys and reports keep pointing out the fact that families spend less time together, families that participate in 4-H Livestock Projects together have the opportunity to spend time together.
Finally, as the project year comes to an end and we put animal on the truck, families get to help celebrate success and also comfort exhibitors through the loss of a friend, just one more life lesson that will stick with our 4-H’ers throughout their life. According to Jerry Coplen, CEA Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, the main object of a livestock project is to teach young people the importance of being responsible. Our youth will carry whatever we teach them into adulthood. They may choose not to be as adults but it is our job to see they have it when they get there. Having someone else care for your animal is counterproductive to the whole process. Start small, gain some knowledge and experience, learn from your mistakes as well as others, and always have a plan or goal in front of you.
Our NETLA Junior Market Show is a competition. After every participant shows their project, a selection process of the top projects will be conducted. Only a determined number will make it to the Sale of Champions coming February 24, 2018. FFA mentors, 4-H leaders and myself will have to provide support to our exhibitors until the last minute on the show, with the understanding that many, regardless of their effort, will not be a champion. As I was talking about this to one of our 4-H families, I remember their comments related to how similar this situation is to real life. Regardless of how much we like our projects, not everyone can be a winner but everybody can win something beneficial of the experience.
For the 2018 NETLA Junior Market Show, more than 350 projects were validated and a very similar number expected to be exhibited. Less than 150 projects will be sold during the Sale of Champions.