Showing Livestock in a Pandemic: Going Virtual

Under normal circumstances, youth all over the state would be wrapping up their spring shows. This year, things look quite a bit different, leaving many youth disappointed.

Because of the COVID-19 situation, counties all over made the difficult decision to cancel spring livestock shows. Many of these shows have been going strong for 80 plus years, so having to cancel was more than disappointing for youth signed up to compete in 2020, but it was also disappointing for alumni and communities that are historically involved.

Much like the NC State Fair livestock shows, the spring shows bring people together—communities, businesses, families, friends, producers, and more. This year, they were brought together virtually and through mutual disappointment.

Although, the physical shows have been cancelled, virtual shows have sprung up. It isn’t quite the same, but it is a testament to how the livestock show community comes together to provide opportunities for youth. Those competing in virtual shows take photos of their animals to be submitted for judging. Some categories include market, best fitted animal, video of tour of exhibitor’s barns, and costume. NC 4-H Livestock even put on a livestock photography Zoom class with alum, Jordan Daigle.

Youth and their families are adjusting to a virtual livestock world. One where they display their animals on computer screens, FaceTime fellow exhibitors to catch up, learn through Zoom classes, compete online, and even participate in social media challenges, posting their favorite show photo.

Although, the younger generations are known to be heavy reliant on technology and may or may not spend too much time on social media, those showing livestock would trade it all in a heartbeat. They miss the smell of show ring shavings, the thrill of competition, seeing best friends, and seeing what they and their animal can bring to the ring.

These youth are ready to get back in the ring, and so, in the midst of mourning their spring shows, in the midst of the disappointment of not being able to show an animal that they worked months with, in the midst of a pandemic, youth are continuing. They are continuing to dream of the future. They are continuing to learn and better themselves. They are continuing to compete, albeit virtually. They are continuing to care for the animals they do have. They are continuing to connect with each other. They are continuing to look forward to the next show.

While the grit and fortitude of stock show kids and the entire agricultural community is amazing, they are still hurting. Extension agents are having to break the sad news of cancellations to a lot of youth. Parents are having to explain to their kids why shows are cancelled. Youth are having to say good-bye to animals that never got to enter a show ring. Everyone is uncertain of what may be cancelled in the coming months—livestock judging, clinics, shows, skillathon, etc. These are frustrating and hard times.

While we are living in uncertain times, livestock youth are continuing to plan and hope and dream of future shows. They are certain that one day they’ll be back in the show ring. Until then, they’ll be social distancing through virtual shows, FaceTime, and hanging with their animals.

About Marisa Linton See

Marisa grew up showing and raising livestock in NC. She has shown animals at the N.C. State Fair for 15 years and is a past youth livestock scholarship recipient. She is an N.C. State University graduate, agricultural photographer and blogger.

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