FFA shows off


Rachel Honts photo.

Caitlin McKeand, Staff Reporter

Chickens shown upside down, hogs driven toward the judge using a stick, steers led into the ring on a halter and chain with exhibitors using a stick to get their feet placed correctly, lambs and goats led into the ring by the exhibitor and shown by bracing them against their legs to show off their muscles.

This past weekend the FFA organization presented the students’ animals to judges at the Greater Leander ISD Livestock Show.

“Animals are prepped all year for show,” Agriscience teacher and FFA adviser Magan Escamilla said. “Students are consistently working on their showmanship skills, adjusting feed rations, and exercising them to develop muscle.”

The animals must be bathed and brushed accordingly, as well as be in the correct weight range.

“Unlike other extracurricular and teams, we don’t really have an off season,” Escamilla said. “The spring is however our busiest time where students are exhibiting livestock and competing in career development events. Career development events  are when students use skills such as identification, skill performance, and evaluation for a mock agricultural career setting.”

Each animal is judged differently and after the last show animals will continue to be raised at the facility until they go to the majors which are the San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which marks the end of the livestock projects.

“The actual animals aren’t sold,” Escamilla said. “It’s a ribbon sale, so it’s an opportunity for companies and individuals to support youth in agriculture.”

The students have a chance to win a check for their animal through such events, but they enjoy the class because of other aspects.

“FFA is really cool, especially for me,” senior Trevor Gotcher said. “A lot of people and the teachers have seen how much it has effected me, from freshman year to this year with public speaking, being able to deal with people. Even my grades have gone up so for me it’s kind of like this point in my journey where I’m really just kind of transforming into the person that I need to be.”

Gotcher has been in FFA for five years as he had joined Junior FFA in seventh grade and continued the class his freshman year, this weekend he won fourth place medium wool lamb and fifth place medium wool lamb.

“When I first started, I kind of looked at it more as a pet and my best friend,” Gotcher said. “It’s really cool, especially seeing where they come from and then where they end up. You don’t think about it, but it’s a big change just if you take before and after pictures. It’s kind of like having a pet.”

Typically, you can pick any animal you want to take care of ranging from rabbits to steer, but steers typically require a year of experience, then that animal is all your to take care of.

“Along the way I’ve picked up some neat little tricks about [taking care of the animal],” Gotcher said. “When I first started out in seventh grade I had no idea what I was doing. With years of experience and trial and error, I’ve caught a couple of methods that can normally help me out with it.”

Not everyone is quite as diligent with their animals.

“We’ve had cases of kids who had to sell their animal early because they didn’t take care of it,” senior Julia Tate said. “You are the animals only source of food, water and care, so you cannot miss a day of feeding your animal. You have to be there everyday and it completely relies on you for everything that it needs.”

Tate raised a steer this year and won first place in Exotic Steer class, Grand Champion Steer.

“My favorite part about my class is all the friends that I’ve made through joining FFA,” Tate said. “My favorite part about the club is raising animals.”

Tate said she had a lot of fun with her steer this year, but it can be a lot of hard work.

“Some of these students drive 30 miles round trip before school even starts and do it again after school,” Escamilla said. “I’m proud of the students that are truly dedicated to their livestock projects.”