Amanda Radke: A Cowgirl’s Perspective 9-12-11 |

Amanda Radke: A Cowgirl’s Perspective 9-12-11

For the third year, 4-H members teamed up with South Dakota legislators at the South Dakota State Fair to compete in a friendly cattle show – the Legislative Showmanship Competition. Twenty legislators were paired with 4-H youth to prepare for the event. The students have the opportunity to coach the legislator, prepare the calf and showman for the contest and give a crash course on the beef industry in the state of South Dakota. The event comes together with a full showmanship competition, where the legislators strut their stuff with their animals in the show ring.

This concept has been hugely successful in our state, and it has been emulated in other states such as Illinois, as well. I’m proud to be a part of this event, which matches agriculture’s future leaders with today’s influencers in the state government.

The contest is much more than a cattle show; it’s an opportunity for agriculture’s youth to educate the state’s influential leaders about the cattle business and issues that are important to them. It enables the 4-H kids to demonstrate just how much time and commitment goes into their beef projects, both at the fair and at home. Additionally, it becomes quite the competition amongst the legislators, who show up to compete each year.

Rep. Larry Tiedemann to win the event, who was coached by 4-H member Caroline Hansen. In reserve was Senator Shantel Krebs, coached by 4-H member Laura Alexander.

Perhaps one of the most interesting stories from the event was the pairing of Lexi Opheim with Rep. Kristin Conzet. Although Conzet has been around horses and dogs, she had never even touched a calf before, and was a little green as she made her way around the show ring. However, with Opheim’s coaching, Conzet made it to the finals, one of only six legislators to do so.

“Kristin has never been around cattle before, so it was fun to watch her get comfortable with my calf, who she named, Q-tip,” says Opheim, who is a senior in high school. “My Charolais steer is behaving really well for her, and I encouraged her to keep calm to help keep Q-tip calm, too. I showed her the basic tips on showing cattle and being around livestock. I showed her how to safely work with the animal and how to present the calf in the show ring. It was a lot of fun.”

One of the unique things about the event is that the 4-H kids learn a lot from being the teachers, as well.

“This program teaches us how to communicate effectively about the importance of beef and 4-H in our state,” says Opheim. “One of the most important things we can do is get involved in the legislative process, and we learn a lot about that, too, from this event. When you teach, you learn, too. It’s nice to interact with our state’s legislators.”

Opheim is a leader in her own right. She is involved in FCCLA, FFA, 4-H, Student Council, school yearbook, band, chorus, church youth group, volleyball, basketball and softball. She is a junior member within the Charolais and Limousin breeds, and she plans to attend South Dakota State University (SDSU) for nursing upon graduation.

The competition is a joint project between 4-H, FFA and the South Dakota Department of Agriculture. Sponsors of the event include: Sullivan’s Supply, First Dakota National Bank, SDSU and the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association (SDCA). A meal was provided by SDCA following the event.

May I suggest an event like this in your state or county. This can be achieved at any county fair or livestock event and is a great way to educate area leaders about who we are as farmers and ranchers. Make more then memories at your next fair; make an impact. That’s exactly what these 4-H kids did at the South Dakota State Fair over Labor Day weekend, and I’m so proud of their efforts.

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