Milton teen wins Master showman
At 18, he played offensive line for the Milton High School football squad, sang and danced with the school’s show choir, graduated as a member of the National Honor Society and soon will start classes aiming for a degree in mechanical engineering from UW-Platteville.
Alf, son of Jill and Larry Alf, rural Edgerton, now can add master showman to his ever-growing resume.
In the first competition of its kind at the Rock County 4-H Fair on Sunday, Alf displayed the skill and knowledge to emerge ahead of nine other competitors.
And the other competitors were no slouches in livestock showmanship; each won top or reserve showmanship honors with his or her respective species.
But the new master showmanship competition involved showing not just the animals with which the exhibitors were familiar, but each of the other animal types: beef steers, dairy cows, pigs, sheep and dairy goats.
“Each showman shows each species,” UW Extension agent Randy Thompson explained.
“So, if they were a top showman earlier in the week, they had to go out, do a little homework and learn a new species.”
In the ring, the competitors—in their last or penultimate years as 4-H or FFA exhibitors—used show sticks to prod and stroke steers and goad and guide pigs.
Halters helped keep dairy cows in line, and neck chains kept goats from wandering.
Alf, a member of Consolidated 4-H, typically shows sheep.
Sheep showmen use only their hands to control their animals in the ring.
“With all the other animals, you have a halter or show stick,” Alf noted. “With sheep, it’s just you holding on to the animal.
“If you don’t work with your animal, you’ll never succeed in showmanship,” he said.
Alf asked questions of his 4-H and FFA friends, but pigs remained a problem.
“I never showed a pig before,” he said. “I knew I had to keep myself between the pig and the judge. Other than that, not much.”
The new master showmanship category is a “great idea,” Alf said.
“Showmanship has always been the biggest thing in our family. It’s really a test of how much time and work you put in with your animals.”
On his family’s farm, that translates to at least a couple of hours a day, just about every day of the year, Alf said.