I know many bloggers have given their two cents on lessons learned in the show ring every year and what we are teaching our children, but after a few weeks of watching another fair I can’t help but add in my opinion!
A little background… I grew up in a very competitive county where showing market lambs was big business, but thankfully my parents steered me in another direction… breeding sheep. I showed a market lamb every year, but I wasn’t out for champion. I was more excited to show my breeding sheep. I quickly learned the lesson of hard work all year ensuring you are producing a quality animal that was ready to produce offspring, not just win a ribbon. And this is where I worry we are going wrong today.
At the state fair every year we see market lamb numbers go up or stay level, but kids showing breeding sheep keep declining. Yes youth learn skills in the market industry, but I think it is also important they are learning the importance of what is needed in the breeding barn to produce the wool and meat needed around the world. I’m not blind and I know some treat even their breeding flocks as show strings, but I think our youth should be learning about the whole industry, not just how to fluff legs right.
In a recent trip to the UK, my students (who grew up in the show stock world) and I watched a couple classes of sheep at a national show. There wasn’t a market lamb class, it was all breeding sheep and people were not “showing” them as we would see in a US show ring. It was fun to watch, but my students were in awe. I think for our industry to grow and continue we need to be developing youth who have a passion for breeding and raising sheep, not just making sure they are fresh the day of the show.