Young people from Lee and Jackson counties won top honors at the Alabama Junior Beef Expo Showmanship Contest March 21 in Montgomery. Alabama Farmers Federation, Alfa Insurance and Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation sponsored the event.
Reid McGuire of Lee County was grand champion in the senior division, ages 16-18, and Will Graves of Blount County was reserve champion. Grand champion in the intermediate division, ages 13-15, was Rayne Starkey of Jackson County, and reserve champion was Josh Graham of Pike County. In the junior division, ages 9-12, Jewel Thompson of Lee County was grand champion, and Gabby Stagner of Mobile County was reserve champion.
Alfa and Federation President Jimmy Parnell said the event teaches responsibility and showcases the leadership potential of Alabama students.
“These young people are among the best of the best,” Parnell said. “They have been taught responsibility and how to care for animals, and I think that carries over into life. Someday, they will be the leaders in Alabama agriculture, and it’s important we encourage them and help them develop.”
Parnell, whose children have shown calves for 13 years, said youth livestock projects strengthen families.
“Today, there are a lot of things tearing families apart,” he said. “This is a good thing for families. They spend time together at the barn taking care of their animals, working together and traveling together.”
Dr. Phil Hardee, a farmer and orthodontist from Beatrice, echoed Parnell’s comments.
“It’s encouraging to see such participation from families across the state.” Hardee said. “Not only is it a wholesome, healthy, family activity, but the children are learning so much more about the spirit of life and appreciation for animals and agriculture. It teaches them the value of the land and what this country is based on.”
Josh Graham, 15, of Pike County was reserve champion in the intermediate division of the showmanship contest. He said the event was a highlight of his livestock show career.
“I’ve shown cattle since I was 7 or 8, and before that, I was out at the barn with my sister whenever she started showing in eighth grade,” Graham said. “This has probably been one of the best years I’ve had with these two steers — this is my favorite group of steers.”
Graham said the best part of showing livestock is spending time with friends but admits the work ethic helped him in school.
“You learn responsibility from showing cattle,” said Graham, a student at Pike Liberal Arts School in Troy. “Without showing cattle, I wouldn’t have as high grades as I have or been as hard working an athlete as I am. When you show livestock, you wake up, and you’re working with your animals. When you get home from school, you’re working with your animals to make sure they’re in tip-top shape.”
The showmanship contest judge was Dr. Doug Parrett, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois and a beef cattle specialist. Parrett has judged livestock shows in Australia and South America, but said he likes judging junior shows because he gets to work with outstanding young people.
“After 40 years in education, I truly believe young people are our future,” Parrett said. “Judging junior shows makes me feel good about that future.”
The Alabama Junior Beef Expo was part of the Southeastern Livestock Exposition with three days of activities including the State Steer Show, Rookie Showmanship and Heifer Show.
For more photos from the showmanship contest, visit the Federation’s Facebook or Flickr pages.