Ag News

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

By Jennifer Whittaker

For Georgia 4-H and FFA members who’ve grown up showing livestock, winning a grand championship with their animal at the Georgia Junior National Livestock Show is like winning an Olympic medal for a team sport. It takes months of training the animals to calmly walk around the ring then stand still in the best position to showcase their muscles and bone structure to win the judge’s favor.

A total of 1,507 4-Hers and FFA members from across Georgia traveled to the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry to compete in the 2019 Georgia Junior National Livestock Show held Feb. 20-23. These students brought 1,209 hogs, 621 cows, 187 goats and 156 sheep to exhibit in showmanship and species competitions during the multi-day event. The Georgia Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture sponsored the grand champion prizes for all species shown.

“My children showed livestock, so I’ve seen first-hand the positives kids can gain from being responsible for an animal. The months these 4-H and FFA members put into preparing their animals to show taught them to have a good work ethic and how to overcome challenges,” GFB President Gerald Long said. “It’s a privilege for Georgia Farm Bureau to sponsor these awards and support all of the shows at the Georgia Junior National Livestock Show as an investment in the future of Georgia agriculture.”

When the species competitions ended on Feb. 23, the following exhibitors drove home as grand champions: Commercial Dairy Heifer – Morgan Patterson of Jasper County; Breeding Doe – Kylie Whitworth of Madison County; Market Barrow – Cason Gentry of Houston County; Beef Heifer – Taylor Barber of Decatur County; Market Steer – Bailey Rayfield of Union County; Market Gilt – Chanleigh Underwood of Jeff Davis County; and Breeding Ewe - Caroline Grace Burke of Screven County.

Patterson, a junior at Jasper County High School, won $1,500 with her grand champion dairy heifer.

“I picked out my heifer from Godfrey’s Dairy for her depth and breadth of rib and how long she is,” Patterson, an FFA member, said.  

This is the eighth year Patterson has shown dairy heifers. The daughter of Randy and Susan Patterson of Monticello, Patterson says she has continued to show because she loves working with animals and the family aspect of showing.

Whitworth, an FFA member at Madison County High School, earned a $1,000 prize with her grand champion commercial doe (female goat). As a senior, winning the grand champion award was a dream come true for Whitworth who has been showing goats for 10 years. She is the daughter of Chris and Greta Whitworth of Royston.

 “Showing livestock has opened so many different opportunities for me,” Whitworth said. “It’s allowed me to meet so many people, and the people I have met, especially within my community, are my family.”

Gentry, a Houston County 4-Her, collected a $1,500 prize with her grand champion market barrow (male pig raised for meat). Although this was only Gentry’s second time competing in a state show, the fifth-grader at Kings Chapel Elementary in Houston County has been showing livestock for seven years. She also showed goats and cattle at the Georgia Junior National. She is the daughter of Philip and Lindsay Gentry of Elko.

Bainbridge High School senior Taylor Barber captured her fourth grand championship at the Georgia Junior National by winning the grand champion beef heifer prize of $2,500. Barber, an FFA member who has shown livestock for 14 years, previously won the grand champion market barrow award in 2013 and 2017 and the market steer prize in 2018.

“This is the first cow I’ve ever got this connected to,” Taylor said when asked what prompted her to kiss her heifer, Mercedes, in the ring after the judge named her the winner. “She’s a second-year heifer, and I’ve bred her, so I’ve learned more from her than my other animals.”

There’s another reason the win was emotional for the Decatur County farm girl. Mercedes and the Barbers’ other four show cows weathered Hurricane Michael in a pen near the chicken houses of her parents’ – Jeff and Leslie. The storm ripped tin from the poultry houses and wrapped it around and over the cattle’s pen keeping them from harm.

“We’ve been through a lot together,” Taylor said of her winning heifer and family. “This win means a lot for my whole family.”

Union County 4-Her Bailey Rayfield remained calm after her crossbred steer, Bandit, was named the grand champion market steer and she was presented the $5,000 prize. The senior at Union County High School senior has been showing livestock since she was five years old. She first showed lambs, moved up to hogs and then cows.

“This means a lot because I've never been a grand champion before,” Bailey said. “I've won reserved champion awards at the fair before, but this is something special.”

Bailey said showing has taught her how to deal with adversity. She put this skill to work by coming to the show without her parents, Fred and Tresa, who were unable to accompany her due to illness. Bailey took it in stride, came to Perry with her older sister, Charley, and left a champion. Her parents watched the show live streamed via Facebook.

Jeff Davis County 4-Her Chanleigh Underwood took home the grand champion market gilt award of $1,500. Underwood, who previously won the award in 2013 and 2014, is the first person to win this award three times according to the list of previous winners in the show catalog.

“I couldn't have done it without the help of the Good Lord and my family. I don't know what to say. The last time I won I was little,” Underwood said. “Showing hogs is my passion. I worked with Thunder about five hours a day. When I picked her, I was looking for a very big-boned hog with correct structure. She's been very easy to train and very sweet.”

Underwood, a sophomore at Jeff Davis County High School, has been showing hogs for 12 years. She is the daughter of Chad and Autumn Underwood of Hazlehurst.

By winning the grand champion breeding ewe award of $1,000, Screven County 4-Her Caroline Burke achieved a dream she’s worked for during the past six years she’s shown lambs.

“Getting to travel and meet people across the nation is what I’ve enjoyed most about showing,” said Burke, a Screven County High School senior. Burke, the daughter of Steven and Denise Burke, has also shown hogs.

This is the eighth consecutive year GFB has awarded the cash prizes presented to the grand champions. In addition to sponsoring the grand champion prizes, GFB is serving as the premier livestock sponsor for the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter’s 2018-2019 show season.

 Visit to view photos from the 2019 Georgia Junior National Livestock Show.