By Susan Collins-Smith
MSU Ag Communications
JACKSON – Young Mississippians took about 3,000 animals to Jackson to show at the Dixie National Livestock Show, but only 44 animals were judged worthy of competing in the annual Sale of Junior Champions.
Mikayla Shelton is one of hundreds of Mississippi youth who groom their goats, lambs, steers and hogs all year long in hopes they make it to the sale, and after five years of competing, the Calhoun County 4-H’er finally earned the spot she had coveted for so long.
Shelton’s Mississippi-bred grand champion goat, named Ready Or Not, brought $6,400 from charitable buyers who contributed to the February sale. Shelton and her brother Conner co-own Ready Or Not.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Shelton, a freshman and FFA member at Bruce High School. “It really hasn’t sunk in yet, even though we’re here.”
Out of a herd of 40 does, Shelton chose seven to show throughout the year. She raised all of them from babies.
“I’ve worked each year to get better, and it is an honor to be here,” she said. “It means so much more to me since I brought them up from kids.”
Trent Barnett, Mississippi State University Extension Calhoun County coordinator, said he has enjoyed watching Shelton mature in the show ring.
“It’s really been fun to watch her do it on her own,” Barnett said. “Even though her parents help her with some of the labor during the school year, Mikayla decides which animals to breed and then selects the kids she will work with throughout the year. She then chooses the best feeding and exercise plan for the animals and keeps them healthy.”
Competitors invest a lot of time and energy preparing for livestock shows throughout the year, and this show is the ultimate reward for their hard work.
“This is the Super Bowl of the livestock shows,” said Dean Jousan, Extension 4-H livestock specialist. “Kids are dedicated to all aspects of the development of their animals, and getting into the sale is very exciting.”
The sale began in 1970 and has raised more than $5.49 million for Mississippi 4-H and FFA members.
At the 2014 sale, 13 hogs, 13 lambs, nine goats and nine steers brought in a preliminary record total of $369,150, which exceeded last year’s record total by more than $50,000.
A market steer and lamb both broke sales records. The steer sold for $28,000, and the lamb sold for $12,000.
Preliminary figures indicate steers brought a total of $107,500. Hogs brought a preliminary total of $93,750. Goats brought a preliminary total of $33,500. Lambs brought a preliminary total of $96,500.
The sale’s promotional committee also raises educational scholarship funds each year. This year, the committee awarded six premier exhibitor scholarships worth $2,000 each and 29 scholarships worth $1,500 each. The committee has given out a total of $602,700 since 1993.
The 2014 Dixie National Livestock Show included 1,700 4-H and FFA youth and about 3,000 head of livestock.