Delaney was busy at Junior Nationals but had time for a selfie with her sister, Sadie, center, brother, Landon, right, and some of their friends at the show.

The cost (and value) of showing livestock

By Matt Reese

The cost of fuel is way up. Feed and supplement costs are up. The cost of dining out has spiked as well, and these are just a few of the myriad of costs that go into travelling to a livestock show.

These rising costs have shown up at fairs and livestock shows as some families are having to make tough decisions about finances. Maybe they are skipping some shows or switching to less expensive projects. Maybe they are not showing livestock this year. 

Braden Moore raises some cattle in Fairfield County with his wife Amy, and their three children Delaney, Sadie and Landon, to show and sell, and some for the freezer. Concerns about the rising costs have not been lost on the Moore family.

“We have a little brood herd of cows. Most of what we keep is stuff our kids have shown or that we’re going to try to sell to other 4-H kids in the county and anything we buy for show as well. We probably, on average, have around 30 head at any given time. This year all 3 kids are going to have a steer, there will be one heifer, a feeder or two, some market goats, a breeding doe and all 3 will take market rabbits,” Braden said. “My kids have shown just about everything. Over the winter we generally try to show at the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association BEST shows and we just got back from a Junior Nationals show in Louisville. There are increased costs. We are looking at feed costs increasing 15% to 20%. With show cattle, it is not like feedlot cattle where you are just feeding them out to maximize profitability. You’re not necessarily trying to feed them in the most efficient way. When you accompany feed costs with the cost to get to some of these shows, things are really increasing. Fuel cost is about double what it was last year just to get to the show. When you go to the shows there are all of these extra little costs you never think of. Things like glue and paint — all of that stuff adds up, and as a parent these are not things you can turn a profit on.” 

In some cases, families are making changes at least in part due to rising costs.

“Before we went to Junior Nationals, we were talking about how many fewer people would potentially be there. The hard-core show cattle farms that do this for a business, they are going to be there no matter what. But maybe the people like us who raise a few cattle and show here and there — how many people like us aren’t going to these shows?” Braden said. “Another family we show with decided against Junior Nationals this year partly because of the fuel costs. It was going to be a rough turnaround for them between Junior Nationals and the State Fair and between that and the fuel costs, they decided not to do it and that is the first time they have missed Junior Nationals in quite a number of years.” 

The Moores are not going to the Ohio State Fair this year but are planning to be at the Fairfield County Fair in 2022 in full force. In a look at overall livestock show economics they are trying some new projects in 2022.

“We got into some of the smaller projects to help pay for some of the bigger projects. For instance, the rabbit project is not very long compared to a steer. They don’t eat much feed and you can sell them and actually make a few bucks. If we do that, we can make a few dollars to put back into the cattle,” Braden said. “My oldest daughter wanted to get into the goats this year and fortunately they don’t eat a lot of feed so that is that not too bad at all.” 

Another concern with the current economic climate is if county fair buyers will be able to maintain previous levels of support and increase them to help exhibitors cover rising expenses.

“I don’t know that buyers will be able to cover the rising costs. Even since COVID hit, I think county fair buyers really stepped up to help these kids out. They knew things were bad and some of these kids didn’t even get a chance to show or sell their animals. I think buyers have really stepped up the last couple of years. I don’t know if that will continue on this year with the increasing cost of everything, which will just put more burden on the 4-Hers and their parents,” Braden said. “With our situation, the kids purchase the animal and we purchase the feed and supplements. If they get to sell their projects, we’ll take a little back to offset the feed costs. Their heifer projects end up being cows on our farm. When they sell those, we just take a percent off to help with feed costs. Hopefully it can give them a leg up with a little money saved up for when they are young adults and need money for college or a car.” 

Economics are certainly one factor that must be considered with 4-H projects, but certainly not the only factor. 

“When our oldest daughter was just getting into 4-H the first couple of years, we talked to another family whose kids were just getting out of it. The best piece of advice they gave us was to remember that we’re raising kids and not raising livestock,” Braden said. “We’ve always kept that in the back of our minds. When the costs come up, it is one of those things you have to consider. Is this something we are really going to make money on or is it about spending quality time with our kids and giving them those memories?”

The Moores’ eldest, 17-year-old Delaney Moore, is headed into her senior year at Bloom-Carroll High School as the FFA president, an accomplished 4-H exhibitor and emerging young leader in her community. She is old enough to recognize the costs and exemplify the benefits of her livestock exhibition experiences.  

“I love showing livestock. It is something I have grown up with. The true value to me is the end products that come out of it, including the people you meet through raising these livestock and the connections you make with them. Raising livestock teaches us so much about responsibility, commitment and hard work. It teaches you so much,” Delaney said. “I have gotten so much closer to my siblings through showing livestock than anything else. We just got back from Junior Nationals. It was a little hot, but we had such a fun time out there. On the drive back home, we were already talking about next year and how excited we were. It is really a team effort. Even if we are not winning in the show ring, we are winning outside of the ring. We are becoming better people and having a great time doing it.”

Delaney Moore from Fairfield County talked with the judge at the 2022 Maine/Chi Junior Nationals in Louisville in June. Photo by Next Level Images.

Their recent trip to Louisville was among the highlights of Delaney’s livestock exhibition career.  

“I loved all of the extra contests we could do through the Junior National shows. This year I entered the videography contest, which is brand new. I love making videos and editing. I won the first ever video contest at the national level. I also competed in public speaking and got second in the senior division. I placed third overall senior in the Sweepstakes — you earn points in every contest you compete in for an overall category. I was fortunate enough to be able to place third in that. That week was a lot of fun because of the team we went with. It is a week-long show,” she said. “We all took our campers down that week. Lots of cornhole was played. We ate all of our meals together. We all bonded so much as a team and I can’t wait to go to the next show. I am so glad I was able to be a part of that experience. At the end of the day, I love the group we go show with. Being an older member, it is cool to watch the younger members grow through their experience in and out of the show ring. It is fun to see them evolve into older versions of themselves. One of the most rewarding things about going to these shows is the people you are with.”

And the shows are only part of the experience. There is plenty of time spent together as a family working on the projects as a team. 

“I am involved in a lot. When I’m involved in different things after school, my younger brother Landon takes over in the barn for us and my Dad helps oversee all the cattle. The cattle are really a team effort. We are all out there all working together with the washing and feeding and working the livestock at night. If we’re not all there it doesn’t run as smoothly. When we are all there, all the pieces fit together a little better and we’re able to get more accomplished,” Delaney said. “We all know how each other operates and we know who is best at which job. Working together with family is something we should not take for granted. It is very important to me — 

my favorite part is the connections we all build with each other. I think we have all learned what hard work really means. We are always on the same page no matter what at the end of the day. Maybe it is not like that with every family, but we always have each other’s backs because we know each other and we love each other. We’re always on the same team and never against each other.” 

With rising costs, and no indication of that trend changing any time soon, families like the Moores are still finding the incredible value of showing livestock, even when the dollars do not quite make sense.

“Ultimately, I think raising and showing livestock is a great way to raise kids because I can’t think of another hobby or way of life that teaches them all the life lessons this does,” Braden said. “From work ethic, to winning and losing, and even life and death, for the value of my dollar, there’s nothing better.” 

The Moore family from Fairfield County family enjoys working with their cattle together, including at the OCA BEST shows in the winter. From left to right are Landon, Braden, Amy, Sadie, and Delaney Moore.  

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One comment

  1. Thanks, Matt, for the wonderful article you have shared. I also understand that it is not simple to save money by showing livestock. It takes support and discipline from the whole team to make it happen. Also, if your family likes to keep showing livestock, then you also need to spend money wisely. Thank you for the wisdom you have shared, and your family deserves all the happiness in the world.

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