Breeding versus Market in the Ring

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.IMG_4094

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.

3 Comments on “Breeding versus Market in the Ring

  1. I would like to comment on why we steered our daughter toward breeding stock vs market stock. First and foremost as 4H advisor and sale committee member I saw too many parents paying hundreds to thousands of dollars on lambs so that they could win junior fair shows. Yes, “they” not their children. A desire to be top family in a county fair show. Now, being competitive is not bad, but the process should be a teaching/learning experience for the family. Not much is learned about a sus tainable national sheep industry by showing up at the unloading of the animals on show day and saying “now which one is supposed to be mine”
    By involving our daughter in breeding sheep she learned what is takes to breed, birth and raise an animal to a market or production status. To appreciate what is involved with the shepherd, the flock and the market. As my Son-in-would say” You can be a combine driver, Just steer it around the field or you can be an operator and know how and why it works, making it more efficient.”
    I am proud to say that she learned the lessons and is a proficient sheep breeder and I am confident that her daughter will also. To maintain a viable sheep industry in the United States we need committed breeders, with a total knowledge of the industry.

  2. I’m a 4H advisor and one of my parents tagged this for me. She said I could have been the one writing this. My two sons show market lambs. My oldest got into breeding stock and what they take to the fair is what is born and raised in the barn. He loves the breeding more than market lambs at the fair. It is not about buying my kid the Grand Champion but about what you learn. They know that hard work is what pays off. Not deep pockets and competitive parents. Thanks for writing what I’ve have been saying to my 4H members, their parents and my two boys!

    • I’m happy to hear I’m not the only one who believes this. It is important we show youth what it is like to work hard and how to win and lose. Thanks for your comment!

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