I often get asked when new families join 4-H what to expect of the program. It is usually the word of 4-Hers and their families that provides the answer correctly. For many, it is the livestock projects, for others the very many other activities in 4-H.
According to Marty Vahlenkamp (www. https://texasyouthlivestock.com) the answer for sure it is different for every 4-H’er depending on their goals and personal situation. The typical answer of it is that livestock projects build character, create 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. To some, 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, Vahlenkamp said- 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.
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 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 exhibitors put their animal on the truck, they get to help celebrate success and also comfort the loss of a friend, just one more life lesson that will stick with our 4-H’ers throughout their life.
As we continue raising projects for livestock shows, Hopkins County celebrates our NETLA Junior Livestock Show February 21-22-23 at the Regional Civic Center in Sulphur Springs. During the show, many 4-H and FFA exhibitors compete for an opportunity to auction their projects at the Sale of Champions, Saturday February 23, 2019. For more information on the NETLA Junior Livestock Show call the Hopkins County Extension Office at 903-885-3443.