Tradition is at the heart of the Val Verde County 4-H Livestock Show and Premium Auction.

Emily Grant, Val Verde County extension agent for agriculture, natural resources and 4-H, said Monday she was pleased with the 79th Annual 4-H Livestock Show, as well as its attendant barbecue fundraiser and premium auction.

“The Val Verde Junior Livestock Show and Annual Barbecue was once again a tremendous success with more than 80 exhibitors showing more than 200 head of livestock, including rabbits, market goats and market lambs,” Grant said.

“The support of the community at the sale of the champions was amazing, with the youth receiving more than $150,000 total for their livestock projects,” Grant added.

Exhibitors with animals entered in the show participated in Friday morning’s sifting and weighing process, during which each animal is weighed and assigned a class according to its weight.

Judging of all the program’s rabbit classes was done Friday afternoon, along with the junior and senior showmanship competitions.

Exhibitors, parents, 4-H volunteers and spectators arrived at the 4-H Barn at the Val Verde County Fairgrounds early Saturday for the judging of the market goats. Market lamb judging began immediately after the judging of the market goats.

Judge Eric Zimmerman of Franklin, Texas, judged both the market goats and the market lambs, and repeatedly praised the exhibitors for the quality of the animals shown.

Between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., 4-H volunteers swarmed into the shooting barn near the fairgrounds entrance to serve the famed 4-H barbecue plates to visitors.

Following the barbecue, the show resumed with an awards presentation and the premium auction.

Grant said the typical 4-H goat or sheep project means a six-month-long investment of time and effort for the individual exhibitor.

Grant explained the auction after the show is basically a way for the community and local businesses to support exhibitors and the work they have done.

“The exhibitor retains ownership of the animal, and after our show, many of them go out and start competing in major stock shows around the state, like the Hill Country Show in Kerrville, which is the week after our county stock show. Then we have kids that will go to Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston, Austin and San Angelo with their animals,” Grant said.

Grant said the 4-H shows have deep roots in the county – and the state’s – agricultural history.

“If you go back to the history of why we started showing livestock, it is because we wanted to show off what we were doing on our ranches, who had the best animals, and the livestock shows today are about the youth getting involved in that,” she said.

“People from Val Verde County took their range livestock, gathered them up, took them to town and said, ‘Hey, these are the best sheep I raised. What did you raise?’ So we were trying to build the best set of livestock we could by using someone to evaluate them and give us their opinion, so we could continue to improve our livestock across the state,” Grant said.

Young people became involved in the shows as a way of passing on ranching and farming lifeways.

“As youth got involved, it was typically and historically the youth of our farmers and ranchers bringing those animals to town and showing them in a youth category, where they raised and took care of that animal,” Grant said.

“Now what we’re seeing, because we’ve grown as a state, and because we’ve become more urban and have fewer kids directly involved in an agricultural operation, we’re seeing this used as a method to teach young people about agriculture and livestock, about raising animals,” she said.

The lessons learned extend beyond that, though, Grant said.

“They’re also learning important life skills. How many kids want to go out and feed when it’s 25 degrees out? So we’re teaching them, even if you don’t feel like doing something, sometimes it still has to be done, and that lesson can be applied to school, your job, and we’re teaching lots of life lessons through caring for that animal that you just couldn’t replicate any other way,” Grant said.

“Having something that depends on you and that you’re responsible for, I think that teaches you so many things. Time management is another huge skill they have to learn. You want to show livestock? Okay, but you also have to maintain good grades and you also have to be able to manage your time enough to have good grades, get your homework done but you also have to be able to do the day-in and day-out work your livestock and stock show project requires.

“I always say that a young person should probably spend an hour to two hours every day in the barn, whether that’s with a rabbit, with a sheep or goat, there’s something to do in that barn for an hour to two hours every day. The list of things that need to be done in the barn is never-ending,” she added.

Caring for an animal also requires young people to prioritize how they are going to spend their time.

“They say, ‘Well, I want to go to the movies with my friends,” but they have to realize they also have to feed and take care of their animal’s needs, they have to do their homework, and then they can go to the movies. They learn they have to take care of their priorities first, and then you can play,” she said.

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