A favored tradition in Manatee County is the fair. While some people go for the rides or the food, others visit the county fair to see the animal shows or auctions. Each year, hundreds of animals are brought to the fair by middle school through high school aged kids to be shown.
Among these are cattle, swine, goats, rabbits, poultry, horses and more.
Students may raise and show an animal through either 4-H or Future Farmers of America. Swine and steers are shown twice, once to judge the quality of the animal and again to judge how well it is trained to walk on a lead or with the guidance of a cane or riding crop.
After the shows, the animals are auctioned off to be processed and consumed.
On the other hand, dairy cows, calves, goats, rabbits, poultry and horses areshown in conformation and
showmanship competitions, but not sold. A large number of students each year at Palmetto High School take pride in the animals they raise.
Junior Rebecca Keefer has been showing swine in the fair for two years. This year, she has a sow (female pig) named Glitzy. Her responsibilities with Glitzy include feeding her and cleaning her pen out twice a day, walking her for 15 minutes everyday, and bathing her once a week. In order for Glitzy to be eligible for showing and selling, she must weigh at least 220 pounds, but no more than 320 pounds and have minimum back fat of one-half inch and a maximum of 11/4 inches.
"I get so stressed the day of pig weigh in that I don't go to school. I spend the whole day making sure my pig gets plenty of food and water," says Keefer
Steers (castrated male cattle) are another animal students raise for the fair. Senior Kara Varnadore has been showing them for six years. Her steer this year is a Maine Angus Cross named Kobe. Kara must feed and make sure Kobe's pen is clean twice a day, as well as walk and rinse him down once a day.
"I have to rinse him down everyday to promote hair growth. The extra hair acts as a 'filler.' If the animal has a fault, it can usually be concealed with thick hair," says Varnadore.
Sam Jackson, a junior, is interested in showing a more unusual animal. Jackson cares for and shows one of the FFA club goats.
A "club animal" is an animal that is sponsored by either a 4-H or FFA chapter. The club buys the animal and all of its food and other necessities, then the money raised by winning awards and selling the animal (selling only applies to swine and steers), goes to the club.
Sam cares for and is going to show a nanny goat named Pebbles this year. He feeds, waters and brushes her every day. Sam also trains her to walk on a chain (similar to a dog collar).
It is very important for Pebbles to learn to cooperate when being led since she will be exhibited in a showmanship competition.
"The goats are stubborn when it comes to training them to walk on the chain. It's not that they don't know how to, they just don't want to," adds Jackson.
Although each of these students care for and show very different types of animals, they all share a common interest in livestock and agriculture. They learn how the food industry works, along with how to raise an animal.
By participating in showmanship competitions, students have the opportunity to meet new people and learn how to handle livestock.