The 4-H youth program is one of the oldest and largest informal educational efforts in public education in the United States. The mission of 4-H is to help young people acquire knowledge, develop life skills, and form attitudes that will enable them to become self-directing, productive, and contributing members of society. These skills are much more than physical skills and are a combination of acting, thinking, and feeling. They help 4-H'ers function as adults in society, accept responsibilities, gain ability to communicate, inquire, solve problems, make decisions, and work with other people. Junior livestock projects are educational projects that encourage young people to achieve the 4-H objectives. There is probably no other 4-H activity that has more potential for educational and personal development than junior livestock projects and shows.
The junior livestock program is a unique opportunity to use live animals to develop young people. The main objectives of the program deal with the young person, not the animal. Participants do learn about agriculture and livestock production and develop an appreciation for the livestock industry, but the main objectives are to teach life skills and help participants become productive citizens of our society. The experience of owning and working with animals; being responsible for their care, health, and growth; and exhibiting them in a competitive environment is a tremendous character-building process.
Annually, more than 7,000 people participate in the major animal science projects of beef, dairy, sheep, swine, horse, dairy goats, meat goats, and meat science. In addition to the animal project work, related activities such as judging (horse, livestock, dairy, and goat), meat judging and identification, premier exhibitor program, meats bowl, horse bowl, horse photography, horse art, horse hippology, horse public speaking, dairy bowl, and dairy products judging are included as part of the 4-H Animal Science program and contribute to the personal development of 4-H'ers.
Major junior livestock shows include the five district shows (Verona, Batesville, Greenwood, Jackson, and Hattiesburg) held in January, followed by the Dixie National Junior Round-Up held in Jackson in late January to early February. The Mississippi State Fair is also held in Jackson in early October. Also, many counties hold county, area, and jackpot livestock shows throughout the year.
The grand finale of the Dixie National Junior Round-Up is the Sale of Junior Champions. Approximately 41 to 44 champion and reserve champion animals are sold to the highest bidders at this prestigious auction. Deserving exhibitors receive scholarships, which are sponsored by the Dixie National Sale of Junior Champions Promotion Committee and the Dixie National Boosters Club.
In June each year, the district 4-H horse shows are held in different locations throughout Mississippi. This activity includes the State 4-H Horse Championship and the state educational horse contests (horse judging, horse bowl, hippology, horse public speaking, horse individual demonstration, and horse team demonstration). Mississippi can enter the top 50 horses from the state show and the top two teams and individuals from the senior nonriding contests for further competition at the Southern Regional 4-H Horse Championship. In addition, the top teams and individuals in the senior nonriding contests are eligible to represent Mississippi in the Western National 4-H Roundup in Denver, Colorado, the following January.
RAYMOND, Miss. -- Not so long ago, goats were niche livestock animals in Mississippi. But these small ruminants have grown in popularity in recent years, especially dairy goats. Farmers who have limited acreage or want to diversify their livestock operations often choose goats. Others want goats for their meat or milk. Regardless of the purpose, people who want to join the ranks of goat owners should understand some important aspects of goat ownership before bringing one home.
JACKSON, Miss. -- Since the age of 7, Smith County 4-H’er Chase Boone has been showing mostly Simmental cattle in the Dixie National Junior Round-Up each year.
He is now a high school senior who will soon be moving on to college but not before a final appearance in one of his favorite livestock show events. He ended up exhibiting two supreme champion livestock -- the supreme beef female and the supreme beef bull -- and was named one of six premier exhibitors.
It was a successful send-off, if not a bittersweet one.
JACKSON, Miss. -- Lily and Emma Grace Putnam raised their Mississippi-bred reserve champion lamb in their Sunflower County pasture, which they recently finished fencing in with the help of loans and grants.
“We have always had the land and have been pasturing it in piece by piece as we’ve been able to, but we needed to complete the fencing this year so we could finish breeding our ewes,” said Lily Putnam, a Sunflower County 4-H’er based in Sunflower County. “The loan was helpful to me because we used it to buy equipment to get ready for lambing and start a breeding business.”
Dairy goats make up a niche market of the Mississippi livestock industry, but their popularity is growing across the state. Interest has grown among 4-H livestock program members, people who participate in various other showmanship contests and people who want goat milk products.
She grew up in the 4-H youth development program in Indiana, and her husband was in Ohio 4-H. Fast-forward a few years, and Inez Saum became a volunteer leader for Mississippi 4-H.
The 4-H Poultry Chain Project regularly receives generous donations from organizations across the state, but the project has never received a donation quite like Southern AgCredit’s pledge of $25,000 over 5 years.
The 2023 Dixie National Junior Round-Up, held annually in February at the Jackson fairgrounds, hosted 1,257 young people, including more than 1,000 4-H’ers, showing 2,153 head of livestock. Animals shown included beef and dairy cattle; meat, dairy, and Boer goats; hogs; and lambs. In addition, 4-H hosted its first-ever rabbit show.
Four generations of 4-H’ers span the century
Mississippi State University Extension celebrated its centennial in 2014. The organization has touched countless lives in the last 100 years, including four generations of 4-H’ers in one family