Youth in 4-H who care for and show livestock gain technical expertise and develop important soft skills that will aid them in future endeavors. Fulton County, in particular, has a large number of youth enrolled in livestock projects.
Fulton County is a big county. In square miles, it is the 8th largest county in Illinois. It also has large numbers of livestock. According to the 2019 USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Report, Fulton County is the 7th highest Illinois county in cattle numbers with 29,500 head.
4-H membership reflects the population. Out of 312 Fulton County 4-H community club members this past year, 182 of them were enrolled in at least one livestock project. Seventy-eight of them were enrolled in Beef. Fulton County also has a 4-H Livestock Judging Club, led by a Fulton County 4-H alum who is dedicated to the subject.
In a recent Extension survey of current and former Fulton County 4-H livestock members, 98 percent of those responding said showing livestock increased their level of confidence. They reported interacting with and receiving support for their livestock projects from many adults, including family members, 4-H volunteers and staff, business people, veterinarians, and others. 4-H member Braydon DeCounter states, “I feel fortunate to be in 4-H. I have learned leadership and responsibility and made friends.”
“I have had the opportunity to show at county, state, regional, and national shows. Each show has given me a unique chance to meet new people who turn into life-long friends,” says 4-Her Jenna Spangler.
Survey results also showed that youth either carried out or assisted with tasks such as buying animals, buying supplies, feeding and watering, cleaning pens and stalls, grooming, helping with veterinary visits, dispensing medication, determining feed rations, and keeping track of expenses and profits. Tasks such as these help youth develop technical proficiency and increase their ability to make decisions and complete work.
For 86 percent of survey respondents, participation in 4-H livestock projects also gained them new friends with youth who have similar interests. Emma Eathington says, “I have made countless friends across the country through cattle shows. It is always nice to create connections with people who have the same passion as me.” Kaylee Irwin shared, “I met one of my very close friends through showing. I chose my career path from showing livestock.”
4-H alumni also have good things to say about the benefits of 4-H. Eve Zimmerman says, “4-H is such a wonderful organization, and I hope to one day have my own kids involved!”