Livestock Show Directors

You’ve signed up for one of the most thankless jobs there are. If you have kids showing, you’re doing it in order to help them win. If you don’t people wonder how invested you are. You might make one person happy each year. You likely have a committee you work with. Hopefully they stand behind the decisions your committee has made and support your enforcement of those decisions.

Mike and I were in charge of the Beef Committee for several years at the Audrain County Fair. That experience was good for us. We learned A LOT. We have been accused of paying off judges, hiring friends as judges, not fairly breaking classes, on and on. We were told we were being unfair expecting kids to attend beef meetings. We were unfair for making a child send their animal home because the steer could not be controlled. It’s ok, we could take it and see it for what it was. But could I offer you a few words of advice? You can take them or leave them…..they’re basically just observations from our experiences.

1. Don’t make rules you’re not willing to enforce and get rid of the rules if they don’t have consequences. People, in general, look for loop holes. Think about that when you’re putting a rule in the book. If an exhibitor does X, then Y is the consequence. Period. If it’s black and white it’s a whole lot easier to enforce. If the rules state no warts, you kick every calf out with warts. The rule is the rule. If you say the calf must be weighed in at the county weigh in for the calf to sell in the premium sale, you have to enforce it – even if the calf dies the next week and the kid gets a new calf.

2. You can’t grow your show or beef program by limiting the competition at your own show. Excluding kids from other counties limits competition. It breeds complacency. Yes, your county kids will take home the hardware, but what does that mean? How much more exciting is it to compete and win against 20 steers instead of 10? How much more does all that hard work pay off that the kids have put in all year? When our boys were younger they were part of a competitive 4-H club when it came to showing cattle. At least 6 of the 12 or 13 members showed at a Jr. National show. They were competing against some of the best in the Angus, Charolais, Chi, Maine and Salers breeds. We didn’t rely on the county show offering competition, we sought it out on bigger stages. But when we had an open junior show with 120 head showing in our county, it got some attention for our county. We were considered a big time show. And the kids got to experience some good competition and learn from others.

3. Have thick skin. Like I said before, people will accuse you of cheating, not having the kids’ best interest at heart, being unfair or judgemental. Once a standard is set, all should be expected to adhere to that standard – adults and youth alike. Not all, and often many, of your choices won’t be popular. As long as they are in the best interest of the kids and the program, stick to your guns.

4. Don’t change the rules in the middle of the game. Calling a show a “no fit” show when you know people have started already shouldn’t be allowed. Changing who can compete in the pre show contests based on who showed up, isn’t cool either. You meet with your committee months in advance to set the rules for the year. Adding or eliminating classes AFTER ownership deadlines to limit competition is not fair. The rules 6 months in advance should be the rules the day of the show.

5. Focus on the good so you don’t burn out too fast. Focus on the thank you from the first year kid (no matter their age) who tells you how much they loved this project. Focus on the parent who tells you how his kid was headed for trouble until he had this calf to work with. Focus on the grandparents who show up to this one show a year to get a better understanding of what makes the kids tick. Focus on the positive light this show can shed on production agriculture. Focus on the fact that some of these kids will forever be involved in agriculture because of this opportunity.

Thank you so much for taking on the task of running a show. We do know how much work it takes. Planning meetings, ordering prizes, getting sponsors, weigh in day in the spring and then at the fair, breaking classes, checking breed papers, organizing classes, getting good ring help and line up help and an announcer. Thank you for all of it.

Reminders for County Fair Parents

You’ve put a lot of time and money and energy into your child’s livestock project, haven’t you? Even if your kid is old enough and responsible enough to do MOST of the work, you’re likely still very invested in this project. Can I offer just a few bits of advice as we enter fair season? Some of it I’m ashamed to admit I’ve learned firsthand.

1. Be thankful for the opportunity for your kid to show. Many counties have closed their shows to anyone not in their county or a neighboring county. Sometimes these rules are put in place due to financial constraints, sometimes because the rules are put in place to make sure the county kids win. The kids from our county are allowed to show at no less than half a dozen county fairs in the next few weeks. I cannot express to you how awesome I think this is. Your child will learn something every time they work with that calf and every time they step into the ring. Confidence, work ethic, leadership, communication and determination are just a few lessons I believe our sons learned from showing. Thank those in charge of the shows…..the fair board members, committee chairs and 4-H and FFA leaders. They can’t guess at what you’re thankful for unless you tell them…..especially if you’re not from the county where the show is hosted.

2. Remember, this is your CHILD’s project – not yours. The lessons learned have to be theirs. Yes, some kids show because their parents want them to and some show because their parents bribe them to. NOT a good plan. If your child doesn’t want to show, find what it is that makes them tick. They will be forever grateful for your support. On the other side of this statement, you have to allow your child control over this project. They need to feed and care for the animal. They need you to teach them the cost of the project. They need to understand how their participation in production agriculture matters. Don’t do all the work for them.

3. Be a good sport at the shows. Champion or last in class, shake hands and congratulate others. Frustrated at the results or the lack of enforcement of rules? Keep your mouth shut until you get back to the safety of your truck or trailer. I learned this one myself. I lost my cool at a show one year. I was not the good show mom. I was ranting and raving ringside all the way back to the trailer. My husband had to look at me and say, “Just get back to the trailer!” I embarrassed my sons, my husband and myself. It was early enough in their show careers that I have had time to redeem my reputation a bit. Don’t be THAT mom or dad. Trust me, I still can reply the scene in my mind and it’s not a pretty one. There are politics in showing. I know that, you know that, and our kids know that. There are often politics at work in general life as well. Maybe we’re to learn in the ring and at ringside life lessons.

4. Don’t be a sideline coach. When the boys were young, we practiced showmanship A LOT!!! And that practice occurred at home. We would watch parents stand ringside doing what they could to get their children’s attention to tell them how to show their calves. We always told our boys that the idea was to show off the calf, not draw attention to yourself. When parents or other helpers coach from the gate, they’re drawing attention to themselves and their showman.

5. The most expensive calf isn’t always the best and the best lessons are often learned leading the calf who isn’t the easy champion. You need to encourage your child to do the best they can. Do they need to research feeds? Showmanship techniques? Fitting techniques? Encouraging improvement is your goal as a parent. “Did you notice he wasn’t putting weight on that foot? Maybe in the next drive you can put pressure on his foot to get him to stand correctly.” Instead of “Don’t you know how to set up that calf?”

We’ve been blessed to raise our boys showing cattle. They’ve learned some valuable life lessons and a lot of confidence in their decision making skills through it. No matter if it was learning lessons in the barn or in the show ring, they gained life skills. And friends. Most activities don’t come with the amount of family involvement that livestock shows afford us. Make that a good thing for your family. It was a very good thing for ours.

A few reminders for county fair season

This week marks the beginning of county fair season here in central Missouri. We have steers going to four shows this week alone. So, I wanted to type out a few reminders for our show kids, their families and those in charge of the shows. It’s just a few things we’ve learned over the years from both sides of the gate.

Show kids – So here’s the deal… bought your calves last fall and have been feeding them and hopefully, working with them since you took them home. We’re blessed to work with some truly amazing young people. Thank you for taking care of our calves this year and trusting us that we’ll be by to help you out with just a phone call. Now, the lessons you need to know before your show…..

1. The adults in charge of your show have put a lot of time and energy into getting it ready for you. They’re arranged for the judge, prizes, check in and weigh in, announcer, ring help and sale help. PLEASE take a minute to thank them in some way. Do NOT grumble and complain about how any of the details have been handled unless you and/or your parents are willing to step up and help out with it in the future.

2. Your parents have helped you out. Did they pick up feed for you? Pay for the calf, the feed, the electricity for the fans on your calf? Have they worked with you in looking at your calf honestly and trying to figure out how to solve any problems with him/her? Have they worked with you on showmanship? Have they simply encouraged you? This is not a cheap or quick hobby. You can’t just sign on for a week or two or just the purchase price of the calf. Please thank your parents. We all know tempers can flare on show day as the stress goes up. Try not to be a turd. Be thankful for the sandwich they brought to the show for you and the bottled water. Be thankful for the love, patience and endurance they exhibit during county fair season.

3. The judge. Yes, he or she has been paid something to come share his/her opinion of your calves. BUT, likely the amount paid isn’t much once you consider their travel expenses to get to the show. Please show them some respect, even if you don’t agree with them. Shake their hand and thank them for judging. Don’t be a part of the crow that grumbles and complains ringside about them. You don’t have to agree with them. Just listen to what they have to say and then take a closer look at your calf. Is it true? Did they happen to see your calf at a lazy moment? We know the calves will shift their weight, move a bit, slouch in the backs at times. And if that’s the moment the judge first sees the calf, it’s hard to overcome that. Not your fault and not the calf’s fault and certainly not the judge’s fault. Just think about what he/she says and use it for future shows. Some things you cannot change, but some can look different with some showmanship techniques.

4. Your fellow exhibitors. I know, I know. There is almost always that one exhibitor at your fair that just gets under your skin. Here’s the life lesson. There’s always going to be someone like that in your life. Smile, shake their hand, congratulate them on their success or console them on their troubles. It shows more about your character than theirs. Some of our sons best friends growing up were their toughest competitors in the show ring. Honor one another.

So there’s my advice to our show kids. Oh, and one last thing….have fun with it. Don’t stress yourself and those around you out to the point the show isn’t even fun anymore. Good luck and keep talking to us.

I’ll work on the posts to the parents and adults in charge soon.

Opening the Gate for Little Blue Eyes and Freckles

“Blue eyes and freckles ‘neath a white cowboy hat, ” begins the song by Chris LeDoux. We’ve listened to a lot of Chris over the years and I think our boys, and Chris especially, wanted to live out the words to his songs. Songs about being a cowboy (both rodeo and real life), songs about love and faith and family. And a lot of that, Chris has lived out. The last stanza of Blue Eyes and Freckles, talks about opening the gate and letting him go. Yesterday was that day.

Yesterday, Chris married the girl of his dreams. True, he only started dating her a year ago, but she has all the qualities he’s been looking for: a strong faith, kind heart, love for family and kids, love of animals and yes, she’s even developing a passion for agriculture. Chris, your dad and I were talking about how we always assumed you and your brother would marry someone you met showing cattle. Instead, you both ended up marrying women you met serving God. How much better are the plans He has for our lives? I remember when Ben and Peggy brought your small group to our house while Brittany was on bed rest with the girls. I saw the shy way Kailey looked your way. Fast forward a year or so later when you all began texting. Jesse might have harassed you a little but we all knew where this texting would lead. Brittany and I may have decided to speed you up a bit by bringing Kailey to the show the day after your first date.

“There’s a cute little filly she lives right next door

She’d like to brand him but he’s no green horn

She’ll offer him candy but he knows her game

He’ll take what she gives him then be on his way.”

We always knew the girl of your dreams would fall for you when she saw your heart for kids. And once Kailey passed the Avery test, she was a shoe in. I so love watching the two of you interact with Avery and Wyatt. They love their “Unca Kiss and Aunt Kayee”. Know that some day, you will have children that are loved and cherished beyond belief. I love that the two of you share similar parenting ideas. You both have a great sense of adventure and yet hold the kiddos in your life to certain expectations.

“Well mama just look how our little boy’s grown

He’ll soon be a man with a mind of his own

And I know the hardest thing we’ll ever do

Is take down the fences and just turn him loose.

Blue eyes and freckles and faded blue jeans.

He’s grown up and ready to follow his dreams.

He was our little cowboy just yesterday,

Now the fences can’t hold him and he’ll ride away.”

Know that the coming year will be a time of transition for both of you. Learning to live with, depend upon and completely trust another person is harder than you might realize. I pray that you and Kailey remember to pray together, communicate well and love deeply. Never give up on one another. God placed the two of you together for a lifetime…..and a joyous one at that. Life won’t always be easy. You won’t always agree. But, I pray that you will turn to God and ask Him to heal the hurts, soothe the emotions and let the joy shine through you and your family.

Love always,



I’ve actually been watching the national news this week and there have been two celebrities commit suicide this week. The top contributors to suicide are depression and drug and alcohol abuse. Suicide is on the rise in America and the reporters have been left to ask why.

Next weekend many of our show friends will be heading out to the Chi & Maine Jr. Nationals. Among those friends are the McCullough Family. Five years ago, their son, Cody, and our sons won the Chi Fitting Contest. They had been on numerous teams over the years and had finally reached their goal. Three years ago this Labor Day weekend, Cody committed suicide. Cody did fall into one of the risk groups. Drugs and alcohol had a hold on him that he just couldn’t shake. Satan whispered (and maybe even shouted) the lie that Cody would NEVER overcome his struggles with drugs and alcohol. To those who only knew Cody from shows or school, they may have only seen a happy, go lucky kid with an ever-present smile. He hid his struggle well from the casual observer. So many were left questioning why. What was so wrong in his life that he chose to end it? How could we have missed it? Weren’t there warning signs? The truth is, Cody was trying to get his life on the right track. He had talked with his momma about his desire to change. His parents have done an amazing job of reaching out to his friends since his death, guiding them to a relationship with Christ. Cody had given his life to Christ. Someday, he will greet us in Heaven and that will be a glorious day.

I have read numerous stories this spring and summer of dairy farmers receiving information on suicide prevention in the same envelope as their milk checks. I’ve sat in on a webinar predicting lower commodity prices, falling land prices and drastically decreasing income levels for farmers. I’ve watched wildfires ravage ranches in the western half of the US the last two springs. I’ve heard of ranchers in the northern states losing as much as 1/4 of their calf crop due to late season severe winter storms. There’s a lot of negatives out there. Life is stressful. Medical situations arise and cause even more financial stress. We all have breaking points. Talk to someone…..anyone. Some of my closest confidants live 4 to 8 hours away. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone who’s not right in the situation. A different perspective may be what we need.

If you want to talk to someone who will be truly confidential call 800-273-8255 or chat with them online at

Good Friday and Easter on the Farm

We’ve been told we’re “original”, “unique” and “different”.  I think that may be because people have a hard time finding nice words to describe our family.  We live in a community that was mainly ag and fire brick industry based until about 10 to 15 years ago.  The fire brick industry dried up in this community.  Ag is still a large basis but it’s mostly row crop farmers in our county.  We only row crop to support our beef cattle habit.  Does that sound like an opening line to a rancher’s anonymous meeting?  Maybe that’s our ministry.

Mike and I both had Good Friday off from the town jobs.  That set us up to celebrate Easter weekend in our own unique way.  We started our day – Mike and Chris getting everything set up for flushing a cow and semen checking bulls, while Kailey and I ran errands.


When we got back home the vet was just heading into the house to look for eggs.  Easter egg hunt #1 was under way.  We grilled some steaks for lunch while Brittany and the kids showed up.  Vet decided he should have more eggs that what he was finding so he went back out and flushed her a second time.  Egg hunt #2 ensued.  We ended up with 16 eggs by the end of the day!  Success!


In the meantime we took Avery and Wyatt outside in the back yard and planted jelly beans.  Great Grandma Bastian may not be happy with the planting skills we taught Avery.  Drop and stomp was the method we employed in planting the jelly beans.  Today was the first day of sunshine we’ve had and we all enjoyed just being out soaking up some Vitamin D.

We ate lunch then Chris and Kailey got changed and we started on their engagement pictures.  Avery decided she needed to be the photographic director.  Chris asked her if she was going to be Pearl when she grew up.  “Uh-huh.”  Pearl has been the only livestock photographer the boys have known (other than their mom) through the years.  She took Jesse & Brittany’s wedding pics and is doing Chris and Kailey’s this summer.  Avery has some big shoes to fill.


By the time we finished engagement pictures, it was time for Mike and Chris to go get hay from Grandpa Bastian’s farm.  Avery and Kailey rode along in hopes of Avery taking a good nap.  She did fall asleep but we’d worn the poor girl slick.  Brittany, Wyatt and I stayed at the house, looked over some pictures and snuck in a short nap.

Mike and I went to Good Friday services that Genesis held at the Mexico Middle School.  It was a unique, interactive service that was very good for us.  When we got back home Brittany had the oil heated up and we started frying fish, chicken, potatoes, onions and biscuits.  We also made some shells and cheese for Avery.  We ended up with everyone just standing around the counter in the kitchen eating it as it came out of the oil.  I couldn’t imagine a more informal, casual and perfect for our family Easter meal.  I’m thinking this could become a tradition for us.  As our kids get older and have more kids, there’s more and more demands on their time at holidays.  If we can schedule a celebration for a more relaxed time, that might just be the best gift we can offer them.

After supper I put out some eggs filled with tea lights and some others that were pre-filled with candy.  We left the porch lights off and it was after sunset by that point.  Avery and Wyatt both seemed to enjoy the glow in the dark eggs.  After Avery collected the eggs and Wyatt had chewed on his glowing one, we went inside for the to get their Easter gifts.  Wyatt really enjoyed his little sports balls and book, Avery was excited for her bubbles and chalk and Mike and Jesse played with the ball and velcro mitts.

Yes, everyone was exhausted, but it was a celebration that I will treasure, no matter how untraditional.


Hoping I Don’t End up on The People of Wal-Mart

Yes, it’s Sunday morning….Palm Sunday at that, and I missed church this morning. Mike came in from chores saying we have at least one calf with scours. After checking that pasture we found two more but only had one packet of electrolytes left. We went back out to treat the 2nd calf. He didn’t want to be caught and our best roper is at a show in Springfield fitting steers this weekend. Note to self….improve roping skills this spring. So we ended up bringing him up to the barn and caught him in a corner there. We managed to get him drenched with electrolytes, gave him a sulfa bolus and a shot of penicillin. Bloody scours is dangerous. We’re fortunate we caught them soon enough they still have some get up and go. We need a nice week of sunshine this week as that’ll help as much as the medication. Cool, wet days keep us holding our breath.

Anyway, after we got him treated we decided Mike would go ahead and feed hay and check the rest of the pastures. While he was doing that, I would run to the only farm store open on Sunday in our town and get some electrolytes. Apparently, many other farmers and farm wives have made the same trip this weekend. There were only 2 packets of our preferred brand of electrolytes, ReSorb. I tossed those in the cart and then started rating the others by what they were good for. Just a heads up, there’s very little left on the shelves at the store. I prepared for the worst of needing to treat up to 12 calves twice before another farm supply store would be open. They did not have Pepto Bismol on hand though. That’s where the title of this post comes in to play.

We had used the last of our Pepto on the first calf of the day. We gave the 2nd calf the sulfa bolus so he’d need Pepto tonight. Oh well, I did put on clean pants & shoes and combed my hair, so I should be safe at Wal-Mart, right? Right, until you think about my list. I needed Pepto in large quantities. I was wearing my Farm Mom hoodie, but it had some slobber and possibly a little leftovers from the backside of that calf we treated smeared across the front. I didn’t even smell it until I bent over to pick up the double packs of extra large bottles of Pepto. And then I bought 2 of the double packs. Let’s be honest, I thought about buying all 3 that they had on the shelf, but decided I better leave something for the other farmers. Our Wal-Mart isn’t heavily populated on Sunday mornings but I’m pretty sure every person who saw me had questions. No one dared ask why I had need of so much anti-diarrheal medication, they were certain they could smell why I had need of it. I promise all of Mexico, that smell was not of my own making.

This is not the first, nor will it be the last time that I will be watched by others at Wal-Mart with questions they’re likely afraid to ask. I’ve checked out with no less than 20 bottles of Joy soap, 10 boxes of Blackest of Black hair dye, bottles of Mane & Tail, and Pink Oil from the ethnic hair care aisle. My buying habits are anything except ordinary. Now I’m adding in Lysol Laundry Sanitizer. The things we do for our animals and families. Happy National Ag Week from the aisles of Wal-Mart.