For Alexis McMahan, showing livestock is second nature. After all, the 17-year-old has been in the ring since age 2.
Through livestock shows, Cleburne County’s McMahan and youth around Alabama learn life skills, discipline, sportsmanship and how to stay calm, even when a title is at stake.
The Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance helped teach these lessons by sponsoring shows at the Alabama National Fair in Montgomery and the Greater Gulf State Fair in Mobile, both Oct. 28-Nov. 6, and the National Peanut Festival in Dothan Nov. 4-13.
“You have to work at showing sheep,” said McMahan, who competed at the Alabama National Fair Youth Sheep Show Nov. 4. “You can’t just show up and expect to do well.”
Showing livestock, whether goats, lambs, dairy cattle, beef cattle or hogs, is hands-on. The hours McMahan spent with her lamb paid off this year when she took home grand champion at the fair’s breeding sheep and market lamb shows. Her brother, Trace, also clinched the reserve grand champion title in the market lamb show.
“It gets easier – and you get better – at showing as you grow up,” said McMahan, a Ranburne High School senior.
First-year dairy showman Hammond Hearn is counting on that. The 9-year-old competed in the Alabama National Fair’s Montgomery Youth District Dairy Show Nov. 1. He said showing’s fun, and the competition will bring him back.
“I worked with the cows and know they won’t hurt me,” said Hearn, a third-grader at Jackson Academy in Clarke County. “It was fun learning to care for and feed them.”
Caring for animals through sweltering Alabama summers isn’t easy, but Hearn’s mother, Nancy, said her son enjoyed preparing the cattle for county, district and state shows.
“If he had any doubts before the show, he knows he wants to participate again next year,” Nancy said.
The Alabama Farmers Federation’s Nate Jaeger said skills learned in the arena translate into everyday life.
“Livestock shows are the heritage of any fair and are the culmination of months and sometimes years of work by the exhibitors,” said Jaeger, the Federation’s Beef and Meat Goat & Sheep divisions director. “Students learn important character traits like responsibility, dedication, service and cooperation by feeding, training and caring for livestock. It’s difficult to teach all those things on a ball field or in a classroom alone, which is why supporting these events is so important.”
For more Alabama National Fair livestock show photos, including class winners, visit the Alabama Farmers Federation Flickr page.