By Rick Bogren LSU AgCenter
BATON ROUGE, La. – Hundreds of youth from across Louisiana will be gathering in Gonzales next month for the 82nd annual LSU AgCenter Livestock Show at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.
LSU AgCenter officials say they expect more than 2,400 4-H and FFA exhibitors to bring about 1,500 breeding animals, 1,500 market animals, 175 pens of broilers and 600 exhibition birds to the competition on Feb. 11-18.
By the time those 4-H and FFA members reach the state show, they already will have qualified in parish and district competitions across Louisiana during the first few weeks of 2017. All will arrive in Gonzales aiming to be state champions – or at least to earn rewards for their hard work and dedication.
Judges at the show determine the winners in various breeds of beef and dairy cattle, goats, hogs, poultry and sheep.
Unlike previous years, exhibitors will no longer earn cash premiums for placing first, second or third in each class, said livestock show manager Dwayne Nunez.
Designated donations from individuals, companies and organizations will continue to be used for cash awards for supreme champions, division and champion market animals, and showmanship winners, he said.
Along with the change in premiums, the entry fee will be $20 per exhibitor while the per-animal fee has been eliminated. “The fee was $30 for larger animals and $20 for smaller animals,” Nunez said.
The 2017 show will be presented by Gerry Lane Enterprises and PotashCorp. With additional funding from the Meraux Foundation, said Vickie Hutchinson, director of development for AgCenter livestock programs.
Other top-level donors include First South Farm Credit, Sunshine Quality Solutions, Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association, Louisiana Land Bank and Mosaic, she said.
Supreme Champion animals in all six breeding species – beef cattle, dairy, poultry, sheep, goats and swine – will be presented with awards supported by the Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation endowment.
Six exhibitors will earn Premier Exhibitor awards, which place emphasis and recognition on exhibitors’ knowledge and skills in the 4-H and FFA livestock projects. Supported by an endowment from Gerry Lane Enterprises in Baton Rouge, the program is open to participants exhibiting beef, dairy, swine, sheep, poultry and goats. The awards are based on performance in tests of each youth’s knowledge of the livestock industry, practical exercises demonstrating skills and the ability to communicate effectively.
One exhibitor will receive the Price LeBlanc Champion Livestock Award, which is presented to one grand champion market animal each year from among five species – steers, swine, sheep, chickens and goats. The award is funded by an endowment from Price LeBlanc, a Baton Rouge automobile dealership.
Junior, intermediate and senior Champion Showmanship awards will be presented to exhibitors in each of the eight animal categories – dairy cattle, beef cattle, swine, exhibition poultry, broiler poultry, sheep, breeding goats and market goats – will earn Champion Showmanship awards. Supported by an endowment from PotashCorp, awards will be presented in the junior 9- to 11-year-old, intermediate 12- to 14-year-old and senior 15-year-olds and up divisions.
Eight exhibitors will be awarded Senior Champion Showman awards, and eight will be awarded Junior Champion Showman awards in scholastic awards of $250. This year’s donation expands the awards to the intermediate and junior Champion Showman winners in all eight categories.
The livestock show also includes a quality assurance and ethics certification program that educates youth on proper and ethical use of animal health products, ensuring a high-quality, wholesome product.
While the annual event may be called a livestock show, it’s more about the young people than their animals, said LSU Vice President for Agriculture Bill Richardson.
“This event provides an opportunity for some of the most outstanding youth in the state to receive recognition for their hard work in learning not only the scientific principles that must be mastered but also the responsibility required to raise this wide array of animals,” Richardson said. “This show also is about the dedication of the many parents, teachers, volunteer leaders, 4-H agents and FFA advisers who have worked with the young people to help them grow as people and responsible citizens.”
As a result of what they learn, generations of young people who have participated in LSU AgCenter livestock projects go on to become leaders – whether in the livestock industry or a variety of other fields ranging from medicine to government, Richardson said.
Youth participating in livestock projects gain knowledge of animal husbandry – including selection, genetics, nutrition, health, showing, economics and marketing of livestock, Nunez said. “But they also develop skills such as communication, leadership and cooperation,” he said.
Competition in various phases of the show will begin almost as soon as the first animals are checked in on Saturday, Feb. 11, and will continue daily through Feb. 18.
A concluding awards ceremony on Feb. 18 will recognize champion market animal exhibitors, champion showmanship winners and Premier Exhibitors as well as recipients of the annual Superintendent of Education Award, Attorney General Award and Governor Awards.
More information on the show and the variety of research and educational activities offered by the LSU AgCenter is available online at www.lsuagcenter.com and through LSU AgCenter parish extension offices.