Today, I’d like to introduce you to Erin Mullins. As soon as I opened up her email asking how to get involved with Pet Escapades I knew we would be friends. And then I visited her blog and I knew for a fact we would get along great if ever given the opportunity to meet outside of this blogosphere. She lives on a ten-acre farm in the northwest corner of Missouri and is active in FFA. Besides the typical farm animals, Erin has raised a Scottish highlander cow (which are adorable by the way), buffalo, emus and bees. She is also the proud owner of a corgi named Duke. Needless to say, livestock shows have occupied much of her time ever since she was a young girl. Here is her story:
This upcoming summer marks the 10-year anniversary of when I started showing livestock. Throughout the years, I have shown goats, pigs and chickens, each of which has left some sort of imprint on my heart. It all started when I was 9 years old when I showed at the county fair for the first time. I remember the coolest thing was that I got to miss a whole day of summer school, and I wasn’t even sick. That year I showed 2 goats, a wether (castrated male) and a doe (female), named Carmel and Flash. I went in leading my goat with a green collar and a horse lead rope trying to follow what everyone else was doing. Turns out I had a pretty special goat. I won 1st place in my class with Carmel and was chosen for Grand Champion!! When the judge picked me I didn’t really understand what exactly was going on, or what I was supposed to do. I remember looking to my dad who was standing by the ring telling me that I won!! It finally sank in when they handed me a Jacket (about 10 sizes too big) and a big blue ribbon. It was that show that really lit the spark to my livestock-showing career.
Since then, I have had several grand champion animals and many last places, but I’ve enjoyed every second of it. Now, I would like to tell you a little bit about one of my most favorite grand championships I won. It was about 3 years ago. I was showing pigs and a goat, neither of which were going to weigh enough to sell in the premium sale. My sister, on the other hand, had a pig big enough and more than enough market chickens to show. She decided to let me show 3 of the chickens so I could sell. This is the key part of the story that you need to remember. I let her have FIRST pick of the 3 best chickens out of her pen that weighed enough to show. Dad and I picked 3 random chickens that weighed enough. It came to show day and we were lined up getting our chickens examined by the judge. I really didn’t care what place I got, I just needed to show them. BUT, after he looked over my chickens he tells me to go stand in the first place position. I figured after he was finished I wouldn’t stay in that place because several kids were left to go. He kept putting each pen of chickens behind me including my sister (whoops). After everything was said and done I ended up winning grand champion with my chickens. Boy was my sister MAD… no maybe a better word would be furious!!! To me, our chickens were identical and I guess by luck, I picked the better 3. I got a brand new jacket, got to ride in the county fair parade and got all the attention for showing and winning with “my” chickens. So I guess I should be saying thank you sis ☺
Other than winning grand championships, one of my favorite parts of showing livestock was participating in the showmanship class where you had to answer question. Some of the questions included where specific body parts were, what percent protein you were feeding, what you liked or disliked about your animal, its birthday, and the market price for that point in time. My sister and I spent lots of time studying body diagrams of goats so we would know every part. I really liked when the judge asked us to switch animals with our competitors because it gave me the chance to show someone else’s animal better than they could!! After a few years into showing goats my sister and I were winning almost every show we would go to. We hated competing against each other so I ended up moving into the more advanced divisions so we could complete separately. I was a 12-13 year old girl showing against 18-year-old kids and winning. That was a real confidence booster.
Another great aspect to showing livestock is the friends you make along the way. We go to about 5 county fairs each summer and usually the state fair. We showed against a lot of the same people and learned whose truck was whose and knew exactly who was there when we pulled in. I always knew if I had more than one animal in a class that one of my friends was more than happy to help show an animal. I remember being just as happy watching a friend win a showmanship award or grand championship.Now, with only 3 years left to show as a junior shower it has really started to make me a little sad. Showing livestock has filled up each summer for the past 10 years and has truly shaped the person I am today and taught me valuable life lessons. I have learned to be optimistic; next year is always a new year. I have learned patience dealing with stubborn goats that wouldn’t lead or a pig that wouldn’t drive. I know what pure joy is after helping a new baby goat into the world. I have learned true sorrow and pain from losing animals that were practically family. I know it does take blood, sweat, and lots of tears to have a successful year. I know what it’s like to get last place, a red ribbon, and “the gate”. But I have also won my fair share of shows and literally hundreds of ribbons, multiple belt buckles, banners, bags, lawn chairs, and jackets. Unfortunately, all of those will tarnish and fade as the years go on, but I will be left with the wonderful memories and lessons from all those years. It is probably one of the best lifestyles a person could live and I can’t wait to hopefully share this way of life with my future kids and grandkids.
I have to agree with Erin that growing up on a farm, showing livestock is truly one of the best lifestyles a person can live. I am certainly blessed to have had many similar experiences in the show ring. To read more of Erin’s adventures on the farm visit her blog, Diaries From the Dirt Road. I would love to hear about your most memorable moment in the show ring. Don’t hesitate to send me your story for next week’s Pet Escapades.