A trip down memory lane recently took Jacob Segers to Perry, Ga., the site of this week’s Georgia National Fair.
The University of Georgia beef cattle specialist reminisced about children from all over the state visiting Perry for the annual Livestock/Horse show. Segers showed cattle as a youngster in the late 90’s and early 2000’s so he can testify to the long road trips, hours of hard work caring for heifers and steers and riding in the back of the truck finishing homework on the way to a cattle show.
It was a way of life he came to enjoy as a child and many others are experiencing this week at the Georgia National Fair Livestock/Horse Show.
“This is a big deal. For livestock kids in Georgia, it’s the deal,” Segers said.
Segers’ days of showing cattle are over, but he is still very much involved in the production of livestock shows, as are other UGA faculty members like Ronnie Silcox, Lawton Stewart, Jillian Fain and Robert Dove from the Animal and Dairy Science Department in Athens and Heather Schultz, Georgia 4-H’s program coordinator for livestock.
Approximately 1,500 to 1,600 4-H and FFA students statewide participate in the livestock shows that involve goats, lambs, steers, heifers and swine.
“There’s a lot of work that goes in just making the show run,” Silcox said. “You’ve got to have somebody that has some experience and knows what they’re doing to get the animals in and get everything organized and make it run right.”
Segers is more than happy to provide assistance because he knows he’s helping future farmers."Any of us (who) work in Extension, we have a pretty vested interest in youth livestock. It’s going to be the kids that come to our class one day, and it’s going to be the kids that replace us one day, probably,” Segers said.
Other UGA personnel providing assistance include Patsie Cannon, a program coordinator in the Animal and Dairy Science department in Tifton. She is serving as the public address announcer for all the beef cattle shows, which includes the heifer show, steer show and showmanship where the exhibitor is judged. After 15 years of assisting with the Georgia National livestock events, Cannon has seen the impact these events have on today’s youth.
“The young men and women are learning so many skills, including working with their animal and related responsibilities, and they’re learning how to work with others as well. They’re learning teamwork. They’re learning respect. They’re learning that they’ve got to pay attention to that judge and what that individual is looking for when they come into the show ring with their animals,” Cannon said.
Silcox and Segers agree.
“It takes a lot of time commitment for the young people. They have to feed those animals every day. They have to work with them and get them trained to show. When they do get to show, they’ve got to groom them and get them ready to put in the ring. There’s a lot of responsibility in taking care of an animal,” Silcox said.
Seagers knows first hand what showing animals teaching a child.
“These programs are extremely valuable to those kids. The stuff they take away from it, not only is it important in teaching them to be competitive but at the same time, sportsmanship, but it gives them drive; it gives them a goal-oriented project that they can work toward,” Segers said.
For more information about Georgia’s 4-H program see the website at georgia4h.org.
For more information about UGA’s Animal and Dairy Science program, see ads.uga.edu.