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Jamie Hoblyn of Nebraska is one of the thousands of youth exhibitors who will soon be searching for her next champion. Hoblyn, shown here at the National Western Stock Show with her Reserve Champion Division 2 steer, has learned valuable lessons through raising and exhibiting her steers. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Volosin)

Best practices for buying show stock

Stock show kids have the opportunity to learn lessons that can't be found anywhere else. Through the process of raising and exhibiting livestock, kids learn responsibility, how to be gracious competitors, how to multitask, and they often develop a lifelong love of the industry.

Purchasing show stock is the first step in the process that teaches 4-H and FFA members these valuable lessons. Keeping a few tips in mind can help ensure a smooth experience no matter the experience level of the showman.

Budgeting comes first

Window shopping is half the fun, especially online, and can give buyers a sense of the market, availability in their area and what the trends are. However, a budget should drive purchasing decisions.

Travis Stenberg, one of the founders of Breeder's World, an online auction service specializing in show stock, suggests determining the budget first. Once the budget is established, he encourages potential buyers to watch the video of the animals they're interested in and then make a list of the lots in priority order. The list of lots, Stenberg says, keeps buyers on track if their first choice sells, allowing them to still purchase an animal that will be a good fit. By doing these things, and contacting the seller beforehand with questions, Stenberg says the process will be easier and buyers are better able to stay within their budget.

Reputation and meeting a buyer's needs

There is no shortage of companies and individuals marketing show stock all across the country and purchasing show stock is a perfect opportunity to teach young showmen to carefully evaluate purchasing decisions.

Levi Drew, of Drew Show Cattle, suggests young people evaluate the track records of sellers before contacting them.

"Ask questions about the level of customer service," Drew says. "Go see them and look at their track record."

Choosing a breeder to partner with a youth exhibitor can drive the entire process and is an important decision. For beginners, considering a breeder that is known for their ability to teach and willingness and availability to assist and answer questions throughout the process of raising the animal may be key.

Marla Verlinde, a stock show mom from Minnesota, encourages buyers hoping for a resource to help with feeding and management decisions to inquire whether a particular seller is willing to serve as a resource before purchasing.

For others, past performance and competitiveness of a breeder may drive a decision. Regardless of which carries more weight, choosing a seller known for honesty, Drew maintains, is best.

Prepare before contacting

To best communicate their needs and goals to a seller, youth exhibitors need to have a few key pieces of information to help the seller find stock to best suit them. Aaron Volosin, of Volosin Club Calves in Calhan, Colo., suggests communicating the budget, the dates of the shows, where the shows will be and the showman's goals to the breeder.

Many breeders, including Volosin, will have steers, for example, available for multiple seasons, types of shows, preferences, budgets and experience levels.

"If you're able to get away and look at the animals, go look at them," says Volosin. "You're always better off that way."

In the Midwest, breeders are more numerous and a family can schedule a quick trip and view a huge number of cattle, whereas in Colorado, for example, the breeders are fewer and further between. Volosin, who has shown and sold cattle exhibited at virtually every level, says excellent stock can be found in nearly all regions of the country, giving exhibitors the opportunity to purchase locally or across state lines.

"Know the reputation of the place you're going," Volosin says. "Ask around and if it's someone worth going to, people will know."

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