Cullman County youths bring home awards from state sheep show at Alabama National Fair

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Kiah Lake of Cullman County was named reserve supreme champion in the Breeding Division of the Alabama National Fair Youth Sheep Show in Montgomery Nov. 3. He also was the reserve champion in the Commercial Division. Judge was Robert Carr of Russiaville, Indiana. The Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance sponsored the fair’s livestock shows.

Youth stock up on skills during livestock shows

MONTGOMERY – While peers tackled sports like football, volleyball and cheerleading this fall, some Alabama youth scored life lessons through livestock shows on the fall fair circuit.

For brothers Casen and Connell Cornelius of Lauderdale County, friendships and skills learned through showing transcend the arena. The second-generation livestock showmen say they’ve learned about responsibility and made lifelong friends in the process.

“The competitiveness is great,” said Casen, the senior champion exhibitor at the Alabama National Fair Youth Sheep Show Nov. 3. “We’ve met a lot of people and friends through showing.”

The Cornelius brothers are just one family benefiting from the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance sponsoring state livestock shows. The Federation and Alfa sponsored beef, dairy, swine, goat and sheep shows at the Alabama National Fair in Montgomery and the Greater Gulf State Fair in Mobile, both Oct. 27-Nov. 5, and at the National Peanut Festival in Dothan Nov. 3-12.

On Oct. 31, Clarke County’s Laura Grace Wilson picked up a Commercial Division Grand Champion title at the Montgomery District Dairy Show, a feat considering she’s new to the show scene.

“It’s been fun to learn about the responsibilities you need to have to take care of these animals,” said the 16-year-old. “It has taught me that how you hold yourself up is very important.”

4-H Chick Chain lured Wilson to agriculture, and last year, the Grove Hill native participated in district dairy showmanship. This year, she milked the show for all it was worth with two heifer entries.

“It’s very exciting,” she said. “I’m so stoked and startled. I did not expect to win at all.”

Casen, 17, and Connell, 14, have been in the show ring since they were 3, and their hard work paid off. Connell took home the champion banner in the Alabama Bred and Owned Division of the sheep show, while his brother snagged reserve champion.

Though the brothers are involved in other extracurricular activities, mom Becky said showing taught her sons a strong work ethic.

“They spend their time working with animals more so than playing video games,” she said. “They’ve learned about confidence, to communicate with others and how to have positive relationships.”

The Federation’s Nate Jaeger said sponsoring these events is an investment in the future of Alabama agriculture.

“These students, from preschoolers to teenagers, are stocking up valuable skills and knowledge that will help them in their personal and professional lives,” said Jaeger, the Federation’s Beef and Meat Goat & Sheep divisions director. “They’re the future of the livestock business, and investing in them at a young age will reap rewards for agriculture down the road.”

For more Alabama National Fair livestock show photos, including class winners, visit the Alabama Farmers Federation Facebook and Flickr pages.