Livestock hows continue to benefit young people as they head to college by teaching Texas youth the meaning of hard work and perseverance. Prize money, scholarships and the priceless feeling of accomplishment are just a few things youth carry with them as they prepare to enter the next phases of their lives.
Hard Work Pays Off
Dustin Lehne, now a student at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Science, began showing pigs in livestock shows after his family moved to Fredericksburg in 1999. Soon, he moved on to heifers and steers, and says that’s when he really began to reap the rewards of his efforts.
“During my senior year in high school, I had the Reserve Grand Champion Market Steer at the San Antonio Livestock Show,” Lehne says. “I won prize money, as well as a $10,000 scholarship. Between the two, it helped me pay for a lot of my undergraduate classes at Texas A&M University.”
The road to success wasn’t easy. According to Lehne, his day began at about 5 a.m., so he could take care of his steers before school. After school, he worked at a veterinary clinic until 6 p.m. Then, he headed home to work with the steers again. Homework began at about 9 p.m., and up next, it was bedtime.
“It was an extremely tough job, but it taught me what hard work can do,” Lehne says. “It helped me learn to just keep working and keep going. It’s really helping me now in veterinary school.”
Dustin’s sister, Lauren, also raised and showed steers, and she is now completing a nursing program at Schreiner University.
His younger brother, Cade, currently shows cattle. Dustin helps him, along with other kids in the Fredericksburg community, prepare for their competitions.
“I’m still involved in it, just more behind the scenes,” Lehne says. “I’m trying to help these kids learn how to do everything that everyone has already taught me how to do.”
Kids Learn Lifelong Lessons
Kathy Reavis of Reavis Farms, a family-owned operation based in Mission, Texas, that breeds, raises and sells cattle, has witnessed firsthand how livestock shows can benefit youth as they grow up. Each of her three children showed heifers and steers during their high school careers, and she believes the lessons they learned continue to serve them today.
“There are so many benefits to the kids,” Reavis says. “They learn how to take care of the animals, which in turn teaches them responsibility, discipline and a strong work ethic. Plus, they learn how to get along with other kids and adults. There’s an interaction there that benefits the kids, and if they were not involved in the shows, they would not otherwise get it.”
In addition to building relationships and instilling the importance of hard work, livestock shows give children an opportunity to grow their self-esteem as they learn to care for and handle large animals on their own.
“Besides our little one, we have about six other kids here on the Lehne family ranch who we help prepare for shows,” says Brian Lehne, Dustin’s father and president of the Rodeo Austin organization. “There are a lot of people who come over and are shocked that we have 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds handling 1,200-pound steers all by themselves. It gives the kids confidence, and that’s a good thing. It’s really fun to watch.”