Farmer Focus: Selling livestock gives children life lessons

August marks the beginning of the end of summer break for many kids in America. For rural kids this is marked by the local county fair.

Like many others we had our own county fair last week, and after last year’s “modified” version it was nice to be back to normal.  

The state fairs in the US have a more commercial feel to them where you can see the latest farm equipment and some of the show cattle of the area.

The local fairs have morphed into something different, and in my opinion, are much better. They are all about youth. 

About the author

Daniel Mushrush
Livestock Farmer Focus writer
Daniel Mushrush is a third-generation Red Angus breeder in the Flint Hills in Kansas, US. The Mushrush family runs 800 pedigree registered Red Angus Cattle and 600 commercials across 4,856ha, selling 200 bulls a year and beef through Mushrush Family Meats.
Read more articles by Daniel Mushrush

Partnered with the youth agriculture organisations 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA), these events give children real experience with agriculture. 

Our own took horses and cattle this year. We usually have hogs, but took 2021 off, thank goodness.

My oldest competed in horsemanship, both on the ground and in the saddle. The youngest kids had bucket calves that they have bottle-fed and cared for all spring. 

We also had market steers. Last autumn my kids started halter-breaking weaned calves.

See also: How a beef farmer is achieving £416/ha gross margin

It’s a lot of work, feeding them to put 340kg on and then halter-training them so a 570kg animal will happily follow a 27kg kid into a strange place led by a piece of rope. It is a lot to ask from both animals and kids.

When the fair is over, it’s time to say goodbye to the livestock.

Local businesses buy the animals at a premium to reward the children, and then sell them on to a processor for a loss.

It’s an incredible event as lots of money is raised for charity. However, for the children saying goodbye to their animals, it’s a raw moment. 

This gets more and more criticism from urban areas, and unfortunately so. It’s a byproduct of a soft, naïve society – this is real life. 

The kids know in advance how tough that goodbye will be, but they raise those animals anyway. It engrains grit and compassion in them that will last a lifetime.

We need more of these children, not just in our community, but in our country and our world.

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