HARRISONBURG — Rockingham Cooperative held the second Market Animal College to teach children how to increase their chances of success at livestock fairs on Saturday at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds.
“We saw an opportunity to help the 4-H and FFA participants here in Rockingham County — as well as all across our footprint that Rockingham Cooperative has — to help them be better prepared for their livestock showing career,” said Adam Ford, event organizer and marketing specialist for Rockingham Cooperative.
Over 175 4-H and FFA members attended the event, a 40-person increase from last year’s attendance, Ford said. The event also increased to more than 20 vendors.
The day included various sessions on topics including nutrition, showmanship techniques and talking to buyers.
The last sessions of the day were part of a “You’re the Judge” series, featuring experts Katherine Carter, extension assistant youth livestock programming specialist and Bain Wilson, assistant professor of beef production and youth livestock programs at Virginia Tech, who told the crowd about what judges are looking for when competitors show their livestock.
Some of the tips Wilson and Carter gave to the crowd during the hog session included making eye contact with judges and not over-stressing the hogs while tapping them to move.
Waylon Bryant, 8, of Amherst, has two hogs he is entering into the 4-H show at the state fair and said he learned you don’t have to be all that physical with the hog to make it do what you want. Plus, he learned that judges are also looking for hogs that doesn’t need too much guidance.
“Programs like this give us the chance to come out and share our knowledge,” Carter said.
Young 4-H and FFA members will be able to use what they were taught on their own projects at upcoming shows, such as at the state fair in Doswell, which starts on Sept. 27.
A competitor’s continued hard work shines through on show day, Wilson said.
“If you haven’t worked hard to get that animal to a point where they can be presented at a high level, you’re not going to do very well,” he said.
The sessions offer knowledge beyond just livestock showing, and can exhibit useful teachings for everyday life, such as confidence and work ethic, Wilson said.
“Everybody has done it a first time and it takes time to get better,” Carter said. “The more they practice, the more they ask questions, the harder they work — then the confidence will come.”
Next year, Ford said he hopes to add more sessions giving more specific advice for both beginners and experienced show entrants.
“It all comes back to repetition — letting the kids be able to learn in a little bit more controlled environment so they feel more comfortable,” he said.