Showing livestock builds skills in and out of the ring
CULPEPER, Va. (Sept. 26, 2017) — When Shelby Jones was three years old her parents, Steve and Bridget, bought some goats for their farm. It was in hopes, Steve said, that Shelby would take to the responsibility of raising animals as he had growing up with livestock.
“It’s always been a dream to have my child experience the same thing,” he said.
The dream came true. Shelby took on the daily chores and then some; naming newborn goats “before they hit the ground,” according to Steve; even taking books out to the field and reading to the animals.
Shelby, now 13, has about 25 goats under her care, four of which she’ll show at the State Fair of Virginia.
“I enjoy raising them from babies and watching them grow and seeing how their personalities form,” she said.
She started showing goats after joining the Culpeper 4-H Meat Goat Club at age 9 and started showing at the State Fair of Virginia with the goal of getting a coveted grand champion banner before she aged out of junior show competition. She met that goal last year, winning the Grand Champion Junior Showman award in meat goats, and also secured a scholarship award she can put toward college.
While winning the banner was exhilarating for Shelby and her parents watching from the bleachers, they said the experience of showing brings many benefits.
Shelby said going to the state fair puts her in competition with youth from across Virginia with different skill levels.
“Getting to see all the kids who show every weekend and watch them, I get to learn a lot of things,” she said.
“It teaches her responsibility,” added Bridget. “She has to get up and take care of the animals and get them ready for the show ring.”
Along with raising and showing her animals, Shelby plays on a travel soccer team, is in the drama club and maintains top grades in school, so juggling all that takes skill as well, Steve said.
“It teaches her discipline, to manage her time. I think that’s a big plus.”
Along with Shelby’s goats, the family has a herd of about 40 cows and last year, Shelby showed a register Hereford heifer at the Culpeper-Madison-Rappahannock Farm Show.
For Bridget and Steve, watching from outside the ring, they said they see their daughter gain confidence in handling things by herself.
“We love watching her show, when she gets into the ring and pulls it all together,” Bridget said. “It’s nice to see her smile when she comes out of the ring.”
Both alumni of Virginia Tech, Bridget and Steve added that going to the livestock shows at the fair is something of a reunion as well.
“Going to the state fair is like going back to school,” Bridget said.
Shelby said she has career aspirations of being a doctor but also shares the same dream her father had for her.
“I want my family to be in livestock when I grow up,” she said.