Skip to main content
Extension Snapshots

Master Showmanship opens up connections for youth; personally and professionally

Three teens holding buckets

To some, showing livestock may appear to be limited to the skills demonstrated within the show ring. But to those who have experienced it, they know the physical skills, life skills, and personal character development go much deeper. And participating in master showmanship contests takes it all to the next level.

Master showmanship requires youth to show swine, cattle, and sheep; rather than just showing the one or two species youth are raising and involved with in 4-H. The goal of the competition is to showcase each individual’s skills and knowledge across the three species.

“It is very rare that a 4-H member would have all three animal species,” commented Kristi Smith, Peoria County 4-H program coordinator. “When youth participate in master showmanship they are responsible for finding their own livestock. They have to pay attention to the other livestock shows going on, notice the temperament of the animals, and the other showmen. Then they have to step out of their comfort zones and ask to borrow an animal...sometimes from a fellow master showmanship contestant.

“They are forced to reach across the aisle and ask their competitors to help them out. The exhibitors have to put someone else’s needs before their own to let them borrow an animal.”

It is not uncommon to see the youth teaching each other how best to show that particular animal and sharing insights about the species that the judge may quiz them about.

“This takes ‘pledging your hands to larger service’ to a higher level,” Kristi said in reference to the 4-H pledge.

Locally, each county offers a county-level master showmanship contest to select a winner to advance to the state contest. For 22 years, Illinois Farm Bureau and RFD Radio Network have hosted the Master Showmanship Contest at the Illinois State Fair.

Local 2022 Master Showmanship Winners and State Fair Awards

  • Fulton County— Liz Hayden: 6th Place Overall & Reserve Champion Sheep
  • Peoria County—Kyle Bird:  4th Place Overall & Reserve Champion Beef
  • Tazewell County—Lydia Rogers

“Kyle is a member of the Laura Winners 4-H club. He took his own swine and cattle, but had to borrow a sheep for the state contest,” explained Kristi. “Now he is studying agriculture education at Illinois Central College. I know from my own experience, the knowledge and confidence gained in 4-H programs like this are incredibly valuable to our adult lives and future careers.”

2015 Peoria County 4-H Champion Showman Andy Smith now works as a livestock producer in Peoria County. He had the following remarks: “Master Showmanship really opened my eyes to the other opportunities that I could explore in animal science. I found a passion for cattle, which is a species that I did not do a lot with before. I really enjoy working with them now.”



Kristi Smith has been part of the 4-H program long before becoming the 4-H program coordinator in 2022. She spent 10 years involved as a member of the Laura Winners 4-H club and then during her teen years 4-H Federation. Upon her graduation from 4-H, she immediately became a volunteer as the 4-H Livestock Judging coach in Peoria County.

Kristi grew up on her family farm in rural Princeville, and attended Black Hawk College, East Campus in Kewanee, IL. After graduation, she attended Iowa State University, where she received her bachelor’s in Animal Science. Kristi was involved with the Livestock Judging team at both institutions.

After spending four years working in the swine industry, Kristi realized it was time to come back home to 4-H. Confirming the statement given to her at BHE: “You’re never done, your roles just change.” Kristi looks forward to continuing to work with youth.

In her spare time, Kristi loves quilting and working with her Chester White pigs.


Extension Snapshots are monthly impact reports that share the stories of our programs in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties. To have them delivered to you directly sign up using our E-blast registration.



Snapshot Hard Copy