Richard Bogren | 2/2/2017 4:23:17 PM
Animal projects have been a staple of 4-H for almost as long as the organization has been in existence. County and state fairs have featured livestock judging for generations, and 4-H joined the exhibition trend a long time ago.
The LSU AgCenter presented the first annual State Livestock Show in 1936, and the first State Horse Show in 1970. Both events include not only 4-H’ers but also FFA students.
The livestock show provides opportunities for youth to be recognized for their hard work in learning to grow and care for a wide array of animals.
“This show also is about the dedication of the many parents, teachers, volunteer leaders, 4-H agents and FFA advisors who have worked with these young people to help them grow as people and responsible citizens,” said Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture.
To qualify for the state livestock show, competitors have to first participate in parish and district livestock shows across Louisiana. In 2016, 2,467 youth participated in district shows, with most moving on to the state competition, said AgCenter livestock show manager Dwayne Nunez. And 322 youth participated in district and state horse shows.
“4-H’ers from many north Louisiana parishes and some in the south participate in the Louisiana State Fair in Shreveport as well as Southern University shows that we don’t have numbers for,” Nunez said.
Judges at the state livestock show select more than 250 state champions in various breeds of beef and dairy cattle, goats, hogs, poultry and sheep.
In addition to awards for top animals, the AgCenter conducts the Premier Exhibitor and Showmanship programs. Premier Exhibitor recognizes 4-H and FFA members in grades nine through 12 who have a thorough understanding of animal science, and showmanship contests focus on exhibitors’ presentation and sportsmanship.
“The Premier Exhibitor awards are based on performance in tests of each youth’s knowledge of the livestock industry, practical exercises demonstrating skills and the ability to communicate effectively,” Nunez said.
Program participants have to pass written and skill tests, write an essay, prepare a résumé and participate in an interview, Nunez said. The program recognizes outstanding participants in horse beef cattle, dairy cattle, poultry, sheep, goat and swine projects.
The program began in 1999 with an endowment from Gerry Lane Enterprises of Baton Rouge, which has recently increased the endowment to assure the endowment income will be up to the level necessary to fully fund the program.
PotashCorp of Geismar has provided a total of $90,000 to establish an endowment to fund showmanship awards for dairy cattle, beef cattle, swine, exhibition poultry, broiler poultry, sheep, breeding goats and market goats.
Rick Bogren is a professor and science writer in LSU AgCenter Communications and associate editor of Louisiana Agriculture.
Contestants show their pigs at the LSU AgCenter Livestock Show on Feb. 18, 2016. Photo by Olivia McClure