We have officially entered Junior Nationals show season. As promised in “On the Road to the Majors: Preparing for a Major Stock Show,” we will be providing a series of interviews with folks who attend Major shows to give our readers inside information about these shows. We’re going to begin our series with an interview with our very own TJ Mills.
SBC: Tell us your name, where you are from, and a little bit about yourself.
TJ: I’m TJ Mills, a 5th-year 4-Her from Kansas. I’m almost 12 years old and I ranch with my family in the Southeast part of Kansas on the edge of the Flinthills. I have nearly twenty cows of my own. I started showing cattle when I joined 4-H and have been showing at major shows for three years now.
SBC: What’s your favorite major show to attend?
TJ: I love going to the Maine Anjou Junior Nationals.
SBC: When and where is the show?
TJ: Next week! June 23-28 in Des Moines, Iowa. The theme this year is “Double Down in Des Moines.” Two breeds will show next week: Maine Anjou and Chianina.
SBC: What is the entry cost for the show?
TJ: The animal entry is $50 per animal. The bedding fee is $55 per animal. You must be an active junior member in good standing with the association.
SBC: When are the deadlines?
TJ: The animals must be registered in your name by May 1 and the entry deadline was May 1. They also had some late entry deadlines, but those are now past.
SBC: Do participants need anything specific for the show?
TJ: Yes. You need breed registration papers and health papers filled out by your vet.
SBC: How is the show split up?
TJ: First the show is split up by breed: Full-blood Maine Anjou animals, high percent Maine Anjou, Maine-Angus animals, and MaineTainers (5/8 percent and less). Then they are split up by the age of the animal. There is also a bull show. If you are showing steers, they must be at least 1/4 Maine Anjou and those are divided into classes by the weight of the steer. The showmanship competition is based on the age of the showman.
SBC: What surprises you the most when you get there?
TJ: All of the different activities that go on. There is something different to do and participate in every single day.
SBC: What did you forget and wish you had brought with you?
TJ: The first year we went we realized we should have brought stall curtains. We had to borrow curtains our first year.
SBC: What is your favorite thing about this show?
TJ: The people! I get the chance to get to know the other showmen from my state and other states.
SBC: What is your favorite memory of the show?
TJ: Last year I got involved in the extra contests. I won third overall in the Junior Speech competition. That was a really neat award.
SBC: How experienced do you have to be to exhibit at this show?
TJ: You could be a beginner. We were definitely beginners our first year. My brother was only seven! Just get to know others from your state who are going so you can work together to coordinate things.
SBC: What ages can show?
TJ: It is only a junior show so the age divisions are 12 and under for Junior, 13-16 for Intermediate, and 17-22 for Senior. It is based on your age as of January 1 of the current year.
SBC: What breeds can show?
TJ: Full-blood Maines, high percent Maines, MaineTainers, and Maine-Angus. There are also several classes for the Chianina breed show that goes on at the same time as the Maine Anjou Show.
SBC: How is the cattle weigh-in/check-in handled?
TJ: First the junior board members go around and check tattoos to make sure they match up with registration papers. Then you take your stamped registration papers and your health papers to the check-in table. There is a designated time to weigh steers.
SBC: What is the atmosphere of the show?
TJ: It’s laid back in a way because everyone is friendly and really helpful. But it also seems high energy because there are so many activities for the kids to do.
SBC: Do I have to pay for admissions each day?
TJ: No. There is no spectator or participant admission.
SBC: Are fitting supplies available on site? If so, what brand?
TJ: It varies depending on which supplier has the contract for the current year. I believe Sullivan’s is the supplier this year.
The quiz bowl competition is one of the additional contests offered at the AMAA Junior National show.
Tie Outs and Parking Information
SBC: How do they handle the tie-out situation for cattle? Do you need your own bedding?
TJ: The bedding is provided in tie-outs, but it’s a first-come, first-served to get your spots. Generators and fans are allowed in the tie-out areas.
SBC: How is parking?
TJ: Parking usually isn’t a problem at all. It may vary a bit depending on the current year’s location.
SBC: Is there easy trailer parking? Is it handy to access your trailer for feed and supplies?
TJ: Yes, there is a designated area for trailer parking and it’s usually pretty handy to get to your supplies in the trailer. Since the location of the show varies each year, it helps to have a wagon of some kind to haul supplies back and forth if it’s very far.
SBC: What is the best way in and out of the grounds?
TJ: Since it’s a different location every year, I’d look at the map of the fairgrounds on the website.
Many Junior National shows offer a team fitting competition.
SBC: What is the barn set up?
TJ: Usually there is plenty of room, but sometimes it can be a tighter squeeze depending on the location. If possible, they usually try to arrange us so our cattle are on one side of the aisle and our equipments and chutes are on the other side of the aisle.
SBC: Are the wash racks indoors or outdoors?
TJ: It varies, but you will usually find both indoor and outdoor wash racks.
SBC: Are stalls assigned?
TJ: All stalls are assigned, and exhibitors are grouped by state.
SBC: What should I expect for moving in and out of the barn?
TJ: There is usually a large time window for the move-in. Since stalls are pre-assigned, it’s not too big of a deal. Sometimes you have to wait in line to unload. Just be patient.
SBC: Can exhibitors bring their own bedding and hay?
TJ: Bedding is provided, but you could probably add your own topdress layer. You’ll want to bring your own hay that your animal is used to eating.
SBC: What type of bedding does an exhibitor need?
TJ: It’s all provided.
SBC: Can I bring fan, a fan cage, and side panels for my cattle?
TJ: Yes, and you probably should.
SBC: Does the water have an off-taste, such as chlorine?
TJ: It depends on the location. Since the show is in a different state every year, it would be best to bring a water filter or an electrolyte to add flavoring to the water.
TJ Mills joins his fellow Junior National public speakers to show off their awards.
Food and Hotel Information
SBC: Can outside food, drinks, and coolers be brought in?
SBC: Are there places to purchase food and drinks? If so, what are the prices?
TJ: Usually. Prices vary.
SBC: How is the traffic to and from the show?
TJ: Usually it’s not bad at all, but I’m sure this depends on the location.
SBC: What are the best restaurants to eat at around the show?
TJ: It depends on where the show is held, but there are often many meals provided at the show by sponsors.
SBC: What are the best hotels near the show?
TJ: It varies. You could also bring a camper or look in to renting a house.
Before the Show Information
SBC: What are the best tips or tricks for preparing for the show?
TJ: Get your calves used to being tied up for long periods of time while at home. That way they don’t freak out when they have to be tied in the stalls all week.
SBC: What is the most important thing to remember before heading to the show?
TJ: Take plenty of feed and hay. Be sure to make a checklist for everything you need to pack. (Sign-up for a free checklist here.)
Participants from Kansas pose for a picture at the AMAA Junior National show.
Show Day Information
SBC: What should I expect for show day?
TJ: It will be busy! Like any show, look at the schedule the night before and calculate how early you will need to get there to hit the wash rack. Give your calf time to exercise, eat, and rest before taking it to the fitting chute.
SBC: Where and when is the show order posted?
TJ: It’s usually by the show office and often online or on Facebook.
SBC: What is the most important thing to do at the show?
TJ: Exercise your animal and take every opportunity possible to walk it in the show ring. Often there are bright colors and lights. Let your animal get used to it before show day.
SBC: Who would be the best go-to contact person if exhibitors have questions while at the show?
TJ: Lindsey Broek. She’s the Director of Communications and Events for AMAA and advises the Junior Board. Everyone knows Lindsey, so just have someone point you in the right direction so you can meet her.
SBC: Who is allowed to help fit at the show?
TJ: Anyone can help fit. Our family all jumps in and works together. Other exhibitors or their parents may even be able to jump in and help you if they have time.
SBC: What would be your best piece of advice for exhibitors interested in attending the event?
TJ: Plan to get involved with all the extra activities. You can do the livestock judging, quiz bowl, team fitting, salesmanship, showmanship, and the speech contest. It’s a lot of fun and you’ll learn a ton. If you want to learn more about the extras, visit with the Junior Board members. They can help you brainstorm some ideas.
Do you have information you would like to share about a Major show? We would love to hear your thoughts. Please post in the comments below.