HOW TO PICK OUT A MARKET PROJECT FOR 1ST TIME SHOWMEN
Every year, some unsuspecting parent is suddenly faced with the request “Hey Mom & Dad! I want to show an animal project at the fair like my friend!”
Now, if you are not “livestock inclined”, a cold sweat may be building upon your face as you try to answer anything but “NO!” But stop right there and consider the benefits of raising an animal at the county fair. Yes, there are many questions flooding your mind, but rest assured, we can help you answer the questions of what, when, where, how much and many other what if’s!
Pets-n-Projects are here to bridge that information gap and bring you simple, straightforward information needed to journey down this wonderful livestock experience. I can attest that the livestock experience has many wonderful & different life lessons for your child and family. I absolutely love how this experience year after year develops children both within your family and in the community. Over the years, my family and kids have grown and developed skills, confidence, and friendships with families from other schools, cities, and communities. It’s a host of lessons not learned in the classroom.
THE DECISION PROCESS
Here are a group of questions that will help you make an informed decision!
Club: Does your child belong to a club that shows livestock? 4-H, FFA or Grange are the primary clubs who show at the county fairs.
4H welcomes members age 9 through 18. Uniforms are a white shirt with white pants with green hat & scarf/tie. White hats signify club officers.
FFA welcomes high school member’s age 14-18 that are actively enrolled in an Agriculture class at their high school. Uniforms are white pants/shirts and dark blue FFA Jacket.
Grange welcomes members age 9-18 and their families. Uniforms are dark blue jeans/white shirt & red vest.
Club sign-ups are generally 9-10 months from your Fair date. Each club has different requirements for becoming a member. Evaluate which club fits your child and family. Pets-n-Projects is a great resource for clubs in your local area and how to contact them.
WHAT SPECIES is interesting to your child?
Large Livestock is defined as Goats (Meat & Dairy), Sheep, Swine & Cattle.
Small Livestock is defined as Turkeys, Chickens, Rabbits, and Cavies (Guinea Pigs).
Where can you keep this project? Is there room in your backyard to set up a temporary pen? Or is there a friend who has room to share or does your club have a community club barn?
Daily Time: Does your child and family have a few hours each day to manage a project? Does it interfere with a heavy sports schedule or other family events? It’s a stressful time if your child is feeling pulled between a coach and team who need them and an animal who requires daily attention and training. Also, your child will require a week off during the fair to tend to their animal. A general time guideline for raising and training a livestock projects is:
Large Livestock requires a minimum of 2 hours a day.
Small Livestock requires 1 hour a day.
Check the date of the fair or show and make sure that your family can be free to attend. Fair schedules usually run 1 week and there are mandatory events to attend during that time. Besides, you want your child to be able to enjoy the week showing and spending time with friends, making new friends and experiences. Make sure summer vacations, summer school or sports are not the same week or they can be missed.
What is the Cost to Show a livestock project? Your expenses are your animal, feed, pen setup & equipment. Your club may have the equipment to share, so be sure to ask what is available. Knowing this will help you plan your project. The average price to purchase, feed, stable and buy equipment for livestock is:
Swine, Sheep & Goats: $800-$1200
Turkeys, Chickens, Rabbits: $70-$200
Loans – Local banks and Agriculture Credit Unions have short term livestock student loans. This can be a great way to learn about loans, interest and paying off debt.
How long is a livestock project? The time it takes to raise a project will depend on the show requirements for age and ownership time. The general timeline is:
Swine, Sheep & Goats: 4-5 months
Turkeys, Chickens, Rabbits: 6 weeks-2 months
Where do we buy an animal for a livestock project? Your local club or the Pets-n-Projects website can be great resources for finding reputable breeders who have livestock available. We team with breeders of goats, sheep & swine from all over the country. If you need an animal, we can a market animal to meet your show needs! Some clubs will buy groups of animals or you can hand select your animal. Group sales are good for first-year showmen. If you have showing experience, you may want to hand select your animal to meet your specific showing needs.
Once, you have successfully answered all of the above questions, it’s time to evaluate the different livestock projects.
Selecting a Species to Show:
Pets-n-Projects Rule: Do not believe that one animal is “EASIER” than another! They ALL take time and effort! The rewards for consistent daily work are great!
Over many years, my family showed Market Goats, Sheep, Swine, Turkeys, Chickens and Rabbits. They were all enjoyable for different reasons. The large livestock took more time than the small livestock, but each one took the about same amount of daily work and management.
The Social Connection – Most kids will show projects that their friends are showing and there isn’t anything wrong with that approach. Mixing a social aspect to the livestock is a good mix. If your child wants to show a goat and you want them to show a pig, let them show what they want. Personally, it doesn’t matter which species my kids showed…in the end, I made them all pets and they were all fun! The goats and sheep followed us everywhere and the pigs ran with our dogs and would come when called. It was all fun and each animal was unique. Another way to make a selection is to attend a show. By watching the different classes of animals, it will give you an idea of what’s ahead. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the showmen and find out what they like about showing. This will also help you decide.
Goats & Sheep – Are handled with halters or collars and there is more control. This is usually a good animal to show for the first year. Sheep and goats will require clipping with an experienced showman. Clipping the hair or wool will require more expensive, hardy clippers and grooming stands. Ask your club about available grooming equipment. Sheep and Goats can be hauled using a truck or car cargo bed and a large dog crate or livestock trailers.
NOTE – Kids’ with disabilities can easily show goats & sheep. See “Stories to Inspire” in the Spotlight Interviews for groups who are breaking barriers for special needs kids showing livestock!
Swine – are handled using a whip and will require patience and trust when working outside of the pen. Pigs are smart and can be easily trained with time and persistence. Pigs love to root and tear up dirt their pen, so steps need to be taken to secure them to an area where they can do what they love! Pigs can be clipped using basic inexpensive clippers. Pigs will also be required to be hauled using a livestock trailer.
Turkeys, Chickens & Rabbits are great beginner projects or small children. They require less time and investment than the large livestock and less physical space to raise them.
Cattle – are for family’s who have experience with large livestock and a good supportive club. Cattle are the largest, long term project that can be shown. They also require the most investment. The feed is easily $1500 plus the cost of the steer and equipment. It will also be a requirement to have a horse trailer to haul to the show.
All in all, showing livestock is a wonderful experience that can’t be duplicated anywhere else! Raising livestock brings out the best in the kids and helps them form friendships, confidence and business skills!
For more information, read the search 1st Time Showmen and Parents. Here you’ll find a list of articles covering everything from setting up a pen to showing at the fair.
We do hope that with this information you can reach the decision to raise a market project for your child. But if it’s not the right decision for you today, there is always the next year!