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.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- A long-time volunteer with the Mississippi 4-H program is the American Youth Horse Council Adult Leader of the Year.
Tom McBeath of Union, Mississippi, received the honor at the recent American Youth Horse Council symposium in Wakefield, Massachusetts. He has spent nearly four decades working with youth to establish strong foundations for successful experiences with horses.
JACKSON, Miss. -- Before Carson Keene sold his grand champion Duroc hog at the Dixie National Sale of Junior Champions, he had a conversation with his family about where the proceeds should go.
The 12-year-old 4-H'er and sixth-grader at Presbyterian Christian School in Petal had known for several months that his 6-year-old schoolmate Noelle Carter was awaiting treatment at Batson Children's Hospital for liver cancer. He decided to donate the auction proceeds to Carter's family.
“Our school was raising money, and I wanted to try to do something, too,” Keene said.
By Jessica Smith
MSU Extension Service
LOUIN, Miss. -- For one Jasper County 4-H member, a junior livestock show career has come full circle.
Lacie Winn, 18, has competed in 4-H livestock shows across the state since 2006. The youth development program is managed by the Mississippi State University Extension Service and open to youngsters from 5-18 years of age.
JACKSON, Miss. -- Alex Deason made members of his 4-H livestock judging team a deal they could not resist.
“I told them if any of them could get a hog in the Dixie National Sale of Junior Champions, they could shave my head,” said Deason, 4-H agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Sunflower County.
The 4-H’ers took this wager seriously. They not only got one hog in the sale. Team members got four hogs in the sale. And Deason? He has a freshly shaven head.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Young people and adult coaches interested in honing their livestock judging skills have several opportunities at upcoming Mississippi State University camps.
The MSU Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences will hold two residential camps and two half-day camps in May and June.
Participants will judge sheep, meat goats, hogs and beef cattle, and they will learn to develop oral reasoning skills.