The phrase, “The future of the beef industry,” gets tossed around a lot. That phrase can refer to technology, cattle markets, advancement it genetics, and on, and on. The truth is, the future of the beef industry lies in the next generation of cattle producers.The “kids” of today will be the leaders, the decision makers, and the innovators of this industry in the next 20 years. Ultimately, the best thing we can to for the future of the beef industry is to develop our youth.
As I write this article, I am at the AGJA Junior Classic in Stillwater, Oklahoma. While watching them compete in the different contests throughout the week I am excited for the future. The AGJA is so much more than a cattle show. These young people also compete in sales talk competitions, impromptu speaking, photo and poster contests, livestock judging, quiz bowl, and skill-a-thon contests.
Each of these contest teach the young people life skills that will prepare them for the careers no matter what direction they take. The sales talk contest teaches the juniors that we all sell every day. We may be selling bulls to our customers or feeders calves to an order buyer off the farm. Another example is we also sell ideas or try to convince people to go along with our ideas. If you have ever worked to convince anyone of anything, you have been involved in sales.
It has been written that the most common fear is public speaking. The impromptu speaking contest helps these young people overcome their fears at an early age and the contest teaches the ability to communicate effectively. In this techno world we live, we see so many kids staring at a screen of some kind and they can’t communicate except through texting. An employer or customer is going to expect more from these young people than OMG, LOL, # and emoji faces.
The photo and poster contest encourages the youth to be creative. One of the most important things in the world of livestock marketing is to have great photos. I’m sure we have all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words and that’s true; that could be 1,000 positively speaking words or 1,000 negative words. The poster contest teaches the juniors to have vision and to make that vision a reality. Creative thinking is what moves us all forward. It took some very creative thinking to develop the automobile or the first computer.
There are so many life lessons learned in livestock judging. First, the youth learn what aspects of the cattle’s phenotype are truly important. Second, they learn how to prioritize characteristics and make decisions based on their observations. Finally, the contestants learn to defend their decisions through oral reasons.
The skill-a-thon and quiz bowl contests teaches kids basic, everyday information related to the livestock industry, such as equipment identification, reproduction and terminology. The youth spend many hours preparing for these competitions learning a wide spectrum of information.
And finally, the show; there are so many lessons to be learned from showing cattle. The value of hard work, good sportsmanship, the value of preparation, the joy of victory, the disappointment of failure, and the fact that life isn’t always fair. I think if you ask 1,000 people what they learned from showing cattle you probably would get 1,000 different answers.
The next generation that is currently being raised is full of children that feel the world owes them something. They, in many cases, haven’t had to work for much and expect for others to take care of them. They have too little respect and way too much ego. If we want the future of the beef industry to be great we have to raise great kids, it’s that simple. The AGJA Junior Classic is a family event that is designed to create leaders for the future. In the words of Jim Blackwell, a parent of a former a AGJA board member “We’re hauling cattle and raising kids.”