Ag News

GFB awards $14,000 to Georgia Junior National Grand Champions

Spring sprang a month early for the Georgia Junior National Livestock Show (GJNLS) held Feb. 21-24 at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry. The 1,585 4-Hers and FFA members from across Georgia competing in the annual event enjoyed balmy weather as they groomed their livestock among fully-bloomed Bradford pear trees.

Exhibitors showed a total of 2,413 cows, goats, pigs and sheep during the multi-day event as they competed for showmanship and species awards. Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) sponsored the grand champion prizes for all species shown for the seventh consecutive year and was a premier sponsor of the show.

“Georgia Farm Bureau has been a long-time sponsor of the 4-H and FFA programs. We want to encourage kids to show livestock because our organization understands that the kids who are showing livestock today will be Georgia’s future agricultural community,” GFB President Gerald Long said. “Showing livestock is teaching these students responsibility and leadership while they make lifelong friends.”

In addition to sponsoring the grand champion prizes, GFB expanded its support of Georgia’s youth by becoming the premier livestock sponsor for the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter’s 2017-2018 show season. GFB has sponsored many prizes given to participants through the years.

Of the seven grand champion prizes awarded at the Georgia Junior National, three went to students who had either previously won the same prize or another grand champion award.

Bainbridge High FFA member Taylor Barber earned her third grand champion belt buckle by winning the grand champion market steer prize of $5,000. Barber, an 11th grader who has shown livestock for 12 years, previously won the grand champion market barrow award in 2013 and 2017.

“I just love working with animals in general,” Barber said when asked the secret to her success. “I’m in the barn from one-thirty every afternoon until eight or nine at night. My dad pushes me to do my best. Showing has taught me a lot about how to be responsible and time management. It’s helped me form lifelong relationships with other families who show.”

Future exhibitors are watching Barber. While she was being interviewed, two-year old Conner McQuaig walked up to the Decatur County FFA member to check out her show stick. Barber had never met the son of South Habersham ag teacher Shelly McQuaig, but she took the time to kneel down to Conner and help him hold the stick she used to calm and setup her prize-winning steer.  That’s the kind of thing that has to make her parents, Jeff and Leslie, especially proud.

West Jackson Middle School FFA member Savannah Page won the grand champion market gilt award of $1,500 for the second consecutive year.

“I’m speechless,” Page said when asked how it felt to win the award for the second year. “It’s amazing. It took a lot of hard work and dedication. I got my pig in October, and I worked with her every day cleaning her pen, washing her and walking her.”

Page, the daughter of Phil and Christy Page of Jackson County, said she was looking for a hog that had width of base and structural integrity when she picked out her pig last fall.

“That means how wide they are when standing, which indicates how much muscle they have and how much product they will produce,” Savannah explained.

Page, who has been showing for seven years, even shared the skin care regiment she used for her gilt, Dora, which included using conditioner and a special pre-show moisturizer to prevent the pig’s skin from being scaly.

Pelham High School FFA member Blaze Beasley captured the grand champion breeding heifer prize of $2,500. The high school senior won the grand champion market steer award last year and has shown cows for eight years.

When asked the advice she’d give other exhibitors for picking out their show cows, Beasley said, “Just pick which one feels right to you. I was looking for something I could use after the show - a cow I could put out in the pasture that would be productive. I was looking for a maternal cow.”

The high percent Simmental breed Beasley won with is known for its mothering ability.

Beasley, the daughter of Richard and Laura Beasley of Mitchell County, grew up on a working ranch. She said she and her siblings put their show cows in the herd.

Like Page, Beasley said she was speechless at winning a second grand champion prize, but she quickly added, “It means a lot. It’s a lot of hard work, but the real reward of showing is getting to see your show friends who live across the state.”         

FFA member Brayden Adams won the $1,000 grand champion breeding ewe prize with a lamb his family raised. The North Forsyth High School sophomore has been showing lambs for seven years. Showing lambs is a family affair for the Adams family. Parents Bud and Annette began raising lambs five years ago for Brayden and his siblings Kaylie and Cash to show.

When asked what it meant to win the grand prize with a lamb his family raised, Brayden answered, “It’s very rewarding. It means our stock is one of the best in the show.”         

Brayden says what he likes most about showing is working with his lambs to figure out what’s best about them physically and how to show them right to accentuate their best features.

After winning reserve champion market gilt the past two years, Colquitt County FFA member Carolyne Turner took home the grand champion market barrow prize of $1,500 with her crossbred pig, Rico. Turner, a sixth grader at Willie J. Williams Middle School, has shown pigs for nine years. She is the daughter of Richie and Becca Turner.

“I like meeting new people and being with different people because you make lifelong friends doing this,” Turner said.

After getting Rico in October, Turner estimates she spent three to four hours a day brushing, walking, washing, feeding him and cleaning out his pen.

“We just make sure everything is running smoothly in the barn. Training the pig is the hardest part about showing. They [pigs] have a mind of their own.”

Jasper County 4-Her Trent Maddox captured the grand champion commercial dairy heifer prize of $1,500. The Jasper County High freshman began showing dairy cattle six years ago at the encouragement of his former Extension agent Bobby Smith. Maddox is the son of Bryan and Bobbi Maddox of Monticello.

“I started because showing looked like something that would be enjoyable,” Maddox said. “I like getting to hang out with friends and family doing something I love.”

Maddox acquired his heifer from a dairy in Montezuma and said he knew she was special when he first saw her. “She’s always been really flashy and great in the ring.”

Worth County High FFA member Taylor Layfield took home the grand champion commercial doe award of $1,000. Layfield is the daughter of Mac and Carol Layfield of Sylvester.

“It was easy to learn about goats and showing was easy to catch on to,” Layfield said. “I like the goat R.J. that I showed because of her attitude and the way she worked with me in the ring.”