There is a certain lifestyle that only few people are cut out for, and that is the show cattle industry. Parents that understand how this industry works, would never want their children growing up any other way. As for me, being one of those kids, I would not change one thing growing up either. One might ask why this industry means so much to these families. The answer is simple, it’s the values learned. These values are not learned over night, they’re learned over years. There are numerous values this industry holds, the main ones that stand out to me, are the passion, trust, work ethic, and responsibilities learned. These are all key values that can be translated over to the real world.
First on my list is passion. Without the passion or the desire to compete, this lifestyle becomes irrelevant to some. A passion is something that one holds strong and is hard to control emotions. Another term I like to replace passion with is “the drive.” Without the drive a young kid can’t sit in a truck and travel thousands of miles over the fall months searching for their next show calf. Once the family finds that next show calf, they spend countless hours working on it, for a specific goal they have set for that year. Sometimes these goals are met, and the feeling of winning that ribbon, trophy, or banner is an ecstatic feeling. But not every year contains a ribbon, trophy, or banner. When losing after all the hard work is put into this project, one has to reflect and look back on that year and take away the positives, such as the values learned. Ultimately though, the passion and the desire to succeed is what drives you to continue on to meet those goals the following year, and not once think about giving up.
The trust within this industry can be looked at numerous ways. There’s a special type of trust between a young individual and their show calf. For instance, imagine being ten years old and leading around a 1,400 lb. steer that could potentially do whatever he wanted to you. But the ten year old doesn’t look at it this way. Why? Because that ten year old and that steer have built an enormous amount of trust between one another. Another type of trust seen commonly in this cattle industry, is trust between the youth and their peers. There are many adults involved in this industry, which raise these show calves, and clip them. Many of these adults reach out to the youth and educate them on feeding strategy, working hair, skin conditioning, evaluating and clipping these stock. These kids learn to believe in their peers and without a doubt learn to trust them with no questions asked. I personally have a handful of peers that I admire very much. These peers have provided advice in hard times, strategy when needed, and recently job offerings.
Another tremendous value that comes from showing cattle is work ethic. An argument could be made that this is by far the most valuable trait to have in todays’ society. When competitively showing it takes countless hours of work, not to mention the early mornings and late nights spent in a barn. Most kids go meet up with their friends, go to movies, play Xbox, or even party. Showing holds you accountable, being in the barn to go feed early in morning and working hair late at night. This teaches the young adults what to prepare for, come the real world. This value has become a rarity in today’s workforce.
“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” – Vince Lombardi
My personal favorite quality that comes along with showing cattle is the responsibilities that it teaches you. All livestock species need fed twice a day, morning and night. This ties you down, no going on vacations for the weekend or going to do all day events. Also the responsibility of washing, blowing, and working their hair. If you don’t do these, you simply won’t be competitive in the ring. In other terms, what you put into it, is what you get out of it. The responsibility of preparing for a show, forces you to plan ahead, getting hotel rooms booked, buying supplies to fit your calf, and the amount of feed you need to pack. There is an uncountable amount of responsibilities that this industry holds for the youth.
I personally find many values in showing cattle and being a part of this industry. There is no other industry that can cover all of these values to such depth this one does. I plan in the future to have my children participate at a high level, so as they grow up they understand what passion, work ethic, responsibilities, and trust are. This hobby prepares the youth for the workforce, teaches them how to deal with success and failure, and to always keep moving forward.
My name is Cal DeWitt and I am a junior at Western Illinois University. I grew up on a small farm in Clinton, Wisconsin. I have had a passion for showing cattle and the agricultural industry my entire life. I transferred to WIU from Black Hawk East where I received my Associates Degree in Agricultural Business. My college experience has been nothing short of excellent. It’s always an honor to be a Leatherneck!