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“Behind the Scenes” of State Fairs– Something to be Proud of.

Author: Kristy

Recently a local Indiana news station questioned the moral values of livestock showmen. The reporter’s intention was to shed light on State Fair winners who have chosen to use performance enhancers in the animals they exhibit, and in turn they have been disqualified and no longer allowed to show at The State Fair. Stating “there are serious questions about what happens behind the scenes” when “nobody is watching” and why consumers should know what’s going on because it could affect the food on their plate.

While performance enhancing is nothing new to the general public, they usually only see it within the sports world. Similar to the sports industry, the livestock industry is composed of a majority that does not use illegal substances to win. There are livestock enthusiasts who are safe with everything they put in their animals, whether someone is watching or not.
So, what does happen “behind the scenes” of livestock shows across America?
Well, just to name a few:

  • Showmen spend countless hours in the barn washing, feeding, and ensuring the health of their animals. The “fluffy cows” people see on the Internet don’t look like that without some serious bath time, major blow drying, and a lot of shampoo and conditioner. These animals are not house pets that you feed twice a day and can leave to lie around. It takes serious time and effort to get them to trust you, in shape, and show ready.
  • Besides the large amount of time invested in these animals, there is also a large amount of money that goes into the supplies, feed, gas, trailers, the animals themselves…the list goes on. A lot of times when the animal wins or is sold in auction the profit will usually go to college funds, a fundraiser for a local family, or are saved for the next animal to come.
  • At the end of the day though, the dollar amount means nothing compared to the experience of showing an animal.
    Unlike household pets that stay around for years, showmen are aware that sooner, and more often than later, we have to tell these animals goodbye for a greater cause­– feeding the world. It doesn’t matter whether you leave the ring with a purple banner or a red ribbon, chances are you will be saying goodbye to a best friend at the end of show season. These animals are not something that we take lightly, they are something we hold our hope in– specifically because of what we do behind the scenes. We love them with our whole hearts and they love us just as much, and we share a bond that is not to be denoted.
  • Behind the scenes are smiles, laughter, tears (happy and sad), friendships and life lessons that we take outside of the barn. We smile when we see a young showman connect with their first show heifer, laugh at a sibling when they pull out a win over us, wipe tears of joy off of our face as we head to the backdrop with a banner, and reflect on the friendships we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

I can’t speak from experience when it comes to tears of joy when winning but I can vouch for everything else that happens behind the scenes. That’s what I love most about the livestock industry, whether we win or lose, we all have the same opportunity to learn life lessons and gain experiences that apply to other aspects of our lives. While no one is watching we learn to develop a work ethic, how to be responsible for something other than our selves, gain a motivation to win and learn to stay humble through it all with a good attitude.
Of the thousands of kids that raise livestock, only a small percentage win, and that is something to be proud of.
Out of the small percentage that wins, another very small percentage does so unfairly. But that small amount should not reflect what is truly happening behind the scenes in our industry. What embodies our industry is hard work, reliability, humbleness, persistency, and knowing that we belong to something much bigger than ourselves.
And that is something to be proud of.

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