ABAC Young Farmers host 4th Annual Cattle Show
Jennifer Whittaker, GFB News
A total of 91 kindergarteners to 12th graders from Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee traveled to the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter in Perry with 123 cows in tow to compete in the 4th Annual Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College Young Farmers Steer & Heifer Show held Jan. 6.
Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) donated $2,000 to sponsor the grand champion steer and heifer awards for the show. Coffee County Farm Bureau provided the $500 prize for the third place overall heifer.
Crisp County 4-Her Maelee Dean walked out of the show ring with the grand champion steer prize of $1,000. Colquitt County FFA member Brock Weaver captured the $750 reserve grand champion prize sponsored by One Source Group.
4-Her Samantha Roberts from McMinn County, Tennessee, took home the $1,000 grand champion heifer award. Mitchell County 4-Her Trace Lamberth earned the reserve champion heifer prize sponsored by Oakridge Landscaping.
The ABAC Young Farmers is a chapter affiliate of GFB intended to recruit students into GFB’s Young Farmer program. Chapter Vice President Michael Herrin said the club began holding its cattle show as a fundraiser, but now the show has become less about fundraising and more about giving 4-H and FFA members another venue to pursue their passion for showing cattle while introducing the students to ABAC and the educational opportunities the school offers.
“The kids are the future of showing. Although I personally didn't show livestock, a large portion of my friends did, and from my experience in FFA, I understand that showing to some kids is a really big deal. It’s their passion, they live for it,” Herrin said. “To see a kid walk out of that ring with a smile on their face is a huge success to me.”
No exhibitor’s smile was wider at the show than James McNeal. The 12-year-old member of the Mossy Creek Middle School FFA Chapter in Houston County showed everyone at the event what the spirit of a true champion looks like.
James, who was born with a rare form of dwarfism that left him paralyzed at age two, competed in the show with his miniature Hereford, Georgia. His mother, Brandie, said it was his second time competing with Georgia since he got her in November.
“I’ve always loved animals. Showing is fun but the best part is having Georgia,” James said. “I like spending time with her and working her.”
Brandie said James has always wanted to show an animal. She and her husband, Tom, considered letting their son show a goat or a pig but didn’t pursue it. James is an avid outdoorsman who likes to hunt and fish.
This fall, James’ language arts teacher, Lindsey Gentry, suggested he consider showing cattle. Her husband, Philip Gentry, the Georgia National Fairgrounds’ agriculture youth director, helped the McNeals acquire the miniature Hereford.
“His attitude is infectious. As soon as I saw him interacting with the cows in the barn I knew that we needed to try to find a way to make this happen,” Philip said.
The miniature Hereford is the perfect breed for James to show because it will always stay small enough for him to handle, Philip said.
“My first instinct as a mother was, ‘uh-oh, I’m not sure he can do this.’ We want to let him try anything he wants to, but at the same time we don’t want him to be let down if it doesn’t work out,” Brandie said. “The first time James met Georgia and we saw him interact with her we knew he could do it - that he would figure it out. Seeing how he has bonded with her and how she is with him, it’s the best thing because it’s something he can do and he can own.”
For any exhibitor, the reality of showing livestock is it’s a team sport with everyone in the family pitching in to help their kids or siblings train and groom their cows. The McNeals are no different. Philip is teaching both James and his parents, Brandie and Tom, how to handle Georgia and groom her.
“Philip is training all of us on how to handle Georgia and bathe her. He’s just been a gift the whole way around,” Brandie said.
To view pictures of the ABAC show winners visit http://bit.ly/18ABACShow.