The Issue

4-H and FFA Livestock projects impact youth life skill development in motivation, responsibility, goal setting, discipline, and leadership (Anderson et al., 2015; Boleman et al., 2004; Evans, et al. 2019; Heavner et al., 2011; Rusk et al, 2003). Knowledge of husbandry and showing procedures increased the longer youth participate in the projects (Havner et al., 2011; Rusk et al., 2003). Valuable relationship development with youth and adults is a byproduct of participation in livestock projects (Evans, et al., 2019; Davis et al., 2020; Heavner et al., 2011; Mott, 2019 ). The majority of evaluation projects look at the benefits of livestock projects or competition to youth and their life skill development (Anderson, 2015; Boleman et al., 2004; Davis et al., 2020; Johnson, 2017; Rusk et al.,2003). What has been missing from the evaluations are the showmanship classes are often included in livestock competitions. Showmanship classes differ from breeding and market classes in that the exhibitor is judged on their presentation of the animal to the judge rather than the animal’s body composition. To date, there have been no known evaluations of the showmanship experiences and their impact on the exhibitor.

What Was Done

Two counties in central Missouri held Master Showman competitions during the 2021 fair season as a culminating event for showmanship winners of large animal (beef, swine, sheep, and goat) contests. Youth competed in showmanship classes separated by age (junior ages 8-11, intermediate ages 12-14, senior ages 15-21) during their designated livestock shows throughout the week. Winners of the two older divisions qualified to compete in the Master Showman Competition. Livestock judges were selected based on their qualifications for judging each species and selected winners of each species at their discretion, based on exhibitor presentation and species knowledge. Participants of the Master Showman competition showed a randomly selected animal from each species and were judged by one judge. To evaluate the program, 4-H Youth Specialists interviewed youth in their county after participation in the contest. Youth were asked a series of questions about what showmanship meant to them.

Project Impact

Seventeen youth ages 11-21 years old participated in this program. Of the participants, fifteen were female and active, enrolled members in a 4-H or FFA livestock project for at least two years. Participants expressed that showmanship was about knowing their animal and showing their best qualities, “it is about you and how you present your animal.” Several expressed that it meant more to show their hard work off than relying on the amount of money used to purchase a high-quality animal that may be needed to win a market or breeding show. One participant commented that “regardless of your last name, the amount of money you put into your project, it doesn’t matter about any of that; it matters about the work ethic you put in at home.” In addition to work ethic, youth also learned several other life skills such as confidence, helping others, and self-improvement. One showman stated, "I'm an introvert, and it makes me branch out, and like [sic], I have to get out of my comfort zone." And another claimed it motivated them because “you're constantly pushing yourself to be the best that you can be.”

The opportunity to participate in Master Showman was a motivation for many to participate in showmanship classes every year and put in more effort. When asked about the Master Showman contest, a participant stated, “it's really cool, um, to see all of the top people and their own species come together and, you know, see them show your species, and you show their species and like how you guys do things different and, you can always learn from them.” Learning from others was a common theme when preparing for the Master Showman competition. They sought out information from their peers with a goat project member stating “one of the girls came up to me. She's like, do you have any questions about cattle? Because I've got so many things about goats.” Some also watched videos to prepare. Overall, showmanship classes successfully improved life skills and knowledge, similar to showing livestock, and they allowed youth to display their skills.


Christal Huber Senior Programming Coordinator, The Connector

Stephanie Femrite Assistant Director 4-H Youth Development