Aug. 7, 2013 09:15

Livestock culture restored in Guilford

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In this economy, it’s only sensible. Unlike typical pets, which are owned as companions, livestock are typically raised to contribute to agriculture and turn a profit.

Intent on upholding the tradition of livestock husbandry, the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and its offshoot 4-H livestock program hold circuits of livestock shows for youths ages 5-19 in counties statewide, some of which have been held annually since the first half of the 20 th century.

Guilford County, however, hasn’t hosted a livestock show in about 40 years, estimates Ben Chase, the livestock extension agent in Guilford and Rockingham counties.

But that will change this Saturday, when the county’s cooperative extension hosts the first annual Guilford County Livestock Show, a pet project of Chase’s since he arrived from Rockingham.“When I came here, it was a goal of mine to get a livestock show back in Guilford County,” Chase said.

He’s not bragadocious, though, recognizing the importance of show sponsor Farm Bureau and members of the Guilford County 4-H livestock club, which has been traveling to participate in livestock shows across the state since 2005.

But Chase gives the most credit to the Guilford extension’s volunteers, at least 25 of whom helped gain community support and assisted with planning the event. “If it wasn’t for the volunteers, this show would not happen,” Chase said.

Saturday’s show, one of the 20 events of the state’s Farm Credit circuit, will feature steer, heifer, sheep and goats. 60 participants have registered multiple animals, so the total count is expected to near 150.

Raising livestock is very much a family business, often passed down by farm owners to their children. 16-year-old Lauren Ingram, who has been showing livestock for eight years, is a prime example of this. Her mother Rhonda not only owns and operates a High Point strawberry farm, but is also the show’s committee chair. “It was sort of a natural thing for me to pick up because we already had livestock, a place to put them and stuff to feed them,” Lauren said.

Like Ingram, Pleasant Garden’s Kacie Beeson, 16, grew up on her family’s farm and will show two goats on Saturday. “I just love animals and it’s a way to get close to them,” Beeson said. Having helped raise livestock for 10 years, she’s also quite familiar with the process.

“First you have to buy goats, which takes a couple days,” Beeson said. “Then you have to get them halter-broke and put a collar on them. They freak out the first couple times, but by the third time they get used to it, then you walk them around and feed them as much as you can.”

“It’s sort of a give-and-take process,” Ingram said. “You have to earn their trust.”

At this stage, leading up to the show, it’s all about grooming. “On the day of the show, we wash and dry them and touch them up with any clippings they need,” Ingram said.

Entrants are judged in two categories: showmanship, an assessment of the handler’s control and knowledge of their animal, and conformation, an evaluation of the animal’s physical traits .

“We have to study because we don’t know what the judge will ask, and every time I study, I learn something new.” Beeson said. Handlers are responsible for knowledge regarding numerous aspects of their animal, from anatomy to marketing.

“It’s so impressive to hear how detailed the youths can be in talking about these animals,” Chase said.

Showmanship, he explains, is also largely a test of reactions. “You’ll see a calf put a kid on the ground or even a goat or sheep knock a kid down,” Chase said. “It’s all about how that kid reacts after something like that happens.”

Chase believes this experience applies to more than just showing animals. “It goes into how these kids react when something happens to them in life,” he said. “That’s one of the lifelong lessons they learn when doing this.”

“Our show is different than some other shows in that you don’t have to be a member of the show circuit to show,” Chase continued. Entrants must simply be a member of 4-H or FFA (Future Farmers of America). “We want anybody locally that likes to show livestock to be able to show,” he said.

The show will be held in Greensboro at the Guilford County Agriculture Center, a venue Chase needed to restore before deeming it fit to host this type of event.

“As nice of a facility as we have here, it took me two years to make the renovations I wanted to make before I had a show in there,” he said. “We put new showrooms, bales, lights and a sound system in the facility. We just finished getting the lights up last week.”

“It was an issue of safety, too,” Chase added. “A person who’s not around livestock wouldn’t want to go to a show and end up with a calf in your lap.”

WANNA go?

Guilford County Junior Livestock Show; 3309 Burlington Rd., Greensboro; 336.978.5897; Saturday at 9 a.m.

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