7 Lessons Learned from Showing Livestock
One show halter and one show stick guide a 1,000-pound animal. Those seemingly simple pieces of equipment have harnessed a lifetime of lessons for Liz, Maddie, and Grace Tusha.
“I don’t think kids really understand what they are learning as they show their animals,” says Tim Tusha of Garner, Iowa. “Now that our two oldest daughters, Liz, 20, and Maddie, 18, are in college, they are realizing they gained a lot of skills while showing cattle. I knew it as a parent. It is why our family started this project.”
Solid foundation is central
Raising children to be decent people means devoting a great deal of time guiding them down the right path. Showing cattle has helped Tim and wife Ellen build a family-focused foundation centered around instilling good values.
“Kids need structure. We wanted our three girls to have a reason to get up in the morning and to have a purpose,” says Tim, a fifth-generation farmer.
“For us, showing cattle wouldn’t be successful if it wasn’t a family project. I’m not saying it’s always been great times in the barn because it’s a lot of hard work,” he says.
“It’s a good family bonding time, because everyone has a role to play. It’s a team effort,” says youngest daughter Grace.
At 17, the high school senior has spent more than half of her life showing cattle. “I started when I was 7,” she recalls. “I really fell in love with it in middle school.”
As Grace enters her final year of showing cattle, she, along with her parents, reflect on their journey and the valuable skills acquired along the way. Here are seven lessons they learned.
Be responsible. “I’ve definitely learned responsibility by waking up every morning at 6 a.m. I knew if I didn’t do what I needed to do in the barn, it was going to take me two steps backward,” says Grace.
Manage time. Grace juggles her time in the barn not only with schoolwork but also with sports. “Before I even get to the first show, I have spent more than 100 hours caring and working with my show cattle,” she notes. “I’ve learned to set time to do homework in order to get everything done and to meet deadlines.”
At the shows, the Tushas wash animals early to allow enough time for the cattle to eat and lie down before they are fit and shown.
Be confident. “When I was in the show ring in the past, I wasn’t as confident as I am today,” says Grace. “Over the years, my confidence has definitely grown.”
For example, she’s no longer afraid to use the show stick to set an animal up in its stance while the judge is looking. “It’s important for the judge to see the animal’s best side,” she notes. “I’ve grown more comfortable using the show stick to help me better place feet and to calm an animal down.”
Deal with the different personalities. “We have been fortunate to have very tame steers the past few years,” she says. “However, Big Boy does get riled up easily.”
With 11 animals under her belt, getting to know each one and building trust are key.
“Brushing Big Boy as soon as we get him home and talking to him has helped,” explains Grace.
Be patient. “The first four or five months you have an animal is tough, because you have to break him in,” she notes. “Stay with it, because he does eventually learn.”
Develop a strong work ethic. As the winner of the 2014 Iowa State Fair Reserve Grand Champion in her division, Grace knows it takes a strong work ethic to produce a quality animal.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling of being in the show ring,” she says. “It all comes down to that moment – the early mornings, the twice-a-day washings, the countless hours of caring for my animal. To me, it’s all definitely worth it.”
That pride in a job well done will resonate with her throughout her entire life. “Winning made me realize that all of my hard work paid off,” notes Grace.
Challenge yourself and others. “I can be the hardest guy in the world, but this process has helped our girls make great decisions throughout their young lives, and I trust they will continue to make good choices,” says Tim. “I’m so proud of the women they’ve become. I’ve watched them develop into three young ladies who are genuinely good people.”