By Lea Kimley and Matt Reese
Work ethic, a positive attitude, patience, and focus — those involved with showing livestock have long understood there are many positive character traits young people can develop through working with animals.
In 2018 the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association BEST (Beef Exhibitor Show Total) Program took the opportunity to formally recognize some of these character traits and the young people who display them throughout the show season. The 2018 BEST Character Trait awards highlighted attitude, focus and patience. Throughout the winter and spring show series, any OCA member or BEST participant or their parents could nominate other cattlemen, breeders or exhibitors for any of the Character Trait Awards.
“This past year was our first year doing this and we worked with some of the leadership programs with Weaver Leather Livestock. They are a sponsoring partner for the BEST program and we worked with them to recognize the character traits. Everyone can nominate throughout the season and then the final decisions go to a selection committee,” said Stephanie Sindel, OCA Director of Youth Programs. “I think it is exciting to see the kids get recognized in places other than the show ring. I really enjoy the component that others can nominate their fellow contestants. It also provides another way for people to get involved in the program.”
Jacob LeBrun, Scioto County was recognized for having an outstanding attitude; Jordan Johnson, Gallia County, was recognized for his extreme focus; and Collin Britton, Wood County was awarded for his exceptional patience.
“They are very exemplary for the areas they have been recognized in and the dedication they put forth every day,” Sindel said. “There is only one person who wins a show on a given weekend, but there is dedication and commitment that comes through all the time. All of those kids have also been very successful in the BEST Program and this is just another area of recognition. At the end of the day, what we are trying to do is to create the next generation of leaders and highlight those folks.”
This year’s BEST program featured 15 sanctioned shows across the state with over 523 youth participants showing 749 head of market animals and heifers.
Collin Britton, Wood County
Anyone who has worked much with cattle understands that patience is an important virtue in the endeavor. When little sisters are involved, even more patience is required — just ask 15-year-old Collin Britton.
“I helped my little sister (Sara Britton) a lot and that takes a lot of patience. We also work the cows here and it can get frustrating so you have to be patient with that too,” Collin said. “We’re probably going to 35 shows in a year and for a lot of those there are two rings so you show twice. We go to Denver, we go to NAILE, Junior Nationals and most of the BEST Shows and we go state fairs and beef expos. We’ve had a lot of success from last year to this year. We won our division there at Denver and had Champion Simmental overall in Ohio BEST. My sister had third overall Shorthorn in BEST. She had third overall in showmanship at Junior Nationals. We had two class winners and a second at Junior Nationals too. She also had the Champion Shorthorn Junior Breeding Heifer at the Ohio State Fair. She has done unbelievably well for her first year showing calves. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Collin has been showing in the BEST Program for three years and he is also proud to be recognized for his patience by his peers through the BEST Character Trait awards.
“I think it is an awesome thing they have started to do. It is a truly great program overall with all of the shows you go to and the people you meet,” he said. “The BEST experience gets you ready for all of the other shows you go to. I look forward to seeing all of the people I show with all winter at the BEST shows. Going through all of the states and sight seeing is pretty fun also.”
Jacob LeBrun, Scioto County
Jacob LeBrun, 15, of Scioto County won the positive attitude Character Trait award in this year’s BEST circuit.
“I always try to keep a smile on my face and encourage others,” he said. “It’s important to always be happy in order to be a light to others.”
LeBrun can typically be found in the barn trying to lift up others, no matter the mood. He believes the new program will give deserved credit to the behind-the-scenes kids and he acknowledges he would not have received this award without the help of his family and the Grimes family of Hillsboro.
“I only see it getting better throughout the next few years,” LeBrun said of the first year of the Character Trait program.
LeBrun’s father showed cattle when he was a boy and this encouraged LeBrun to start showing as well. They began raising a few calves for him to show each year and have built their herd off of past show heifers.
The BEST program requires a lot of time, money, and work. This is LeBrun’s fourth year completing the circuit and sixth year showing cattle.
“Showing cattle keeps me going,” he said. “I have had a passion for it since I started.”
Showing cattle has helped LeBrun make lifelong friends and learn the value of hard work. Seeing the friends he made through the BEST program and spending quality time with them is what he was most looking forward to heading into the Ohio State Fair this year.
In the BEST Program this year, along with being recognized for his character, LeBrun received 6th overall Angus heifer and 7th overall intermediate showman. He also showed his heifer at the Ohio State Fair.
Jordan Johnson, Gallia County
Jordan Johnson, 19, of Gallia County received the BEST focus Character Trait award. Johnson has been showing for 10 years. Additionally, he runs a small herd and sells calves to several people. He enjoys giving back to his customers and puts in plenty of effort toward helping them.
“I am grateful to have won this award and am excited to see the progress the program makes throughout the years,” Johnson said.
Through the hours of hard work and determination to be the best, Johnson has also learned about responsibility. In addition, the BEST program has taught Johnson how to communicate with others, the value of teamwork, and helped build friendships.
Everyone has to start somewhere. Johnson’s parents both showed livestock growing up, but took a break until Johnson was in 4-H. They weren’t very competitive at the beginning, but after a taste of victory when winning grand champion feeder calf at the county fair, they never looked back.
“My favorite part of the process is selecting the cattle and choosing the genetics, then putting in as much work as possible to get the full potential and quality out of the cattle,” Johnson said.
Johnson is dedicated to leaving his mark and helping the next generation of showman. Johnson just finished his last Ohio State Fair as a junior exhibitor and he is hoping all the hard work he’s put in through the years will pay off in the future. Johnson is currently attending the University of Rio Grande majoring in business and minoring in marketing. Johnson hopes to stay in the livestock business on the marketing side and continue to raise cattle.
“Showing and raising cattle is my passion, I live and breathe it every day,” Johnson said.
Those interested in learning more about participating in the BEST program can visit www.ohiocattle.org and follow OCA on their social media platforms. The BEST program will be celebrating 20 years of recognizing Ohio’s junior beef exhibitors for participation and placings through a series of sanctioned cattle shows that include showmanship competitions. Juniors who participate in these sanctioned shows earn points for their placings. Points are tabulated for cattle, showmanship, registered Bred & Owned animals and first or second year BEST participants in a separate Novice division for market animals, heifers and showmanship. The program concludes with a celebration of all BEST participants along with their families on the first Saturday in May of 2019.