Boots, belts and felt hats filled the hallway of the Prescott Resort for the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association Convention (ACGA). Ranchers, vendors and family members mingled over the latest in the beef community and how their ranches and families continue to change. Among these agricultural giants are some up-and-comers who seek to gain knowledge and aren’t afraid to work hard for it: the members of the Arizona Junior Livestock Association (AJLA).
The purpose of the AJLA is “to promote the welfare of the livestock community, to further the education and cooperation of young people interested in livestock, and to aid in the attainment of mutual goals set by AJLA members interested in all phases of this business and all possible career opportunities.”
AJLA is a chance for the children who attend the annual convention with their parents a chance to participate in social time with other kids their age while offering learning opportunities and prizes for their efforts. AJLA members learn about and compete in prepared and impromptu speaking competitions, a quiz bowl and a livestock judging competition. These events have been part of the ACGA convention for almost 25 years and were incorporated when attendees noticed many children were drug along but didn’t have much to do other than sit in meetings with their parents.
“AJLA teaches us about livestock, caring for them and comparisons between different animals,” says Julian Arrington, a three-year member of the organization.
Arrington, 14, shows swine at livestock shows and helps run his family’s cattle ranch in Wilcox, AZ. He also participates in the livestock judging competition through AJLA and continues to learn about the anatomies of different animals.
During the convention, members like Arrington are exposed to cattle ranchers and experts to facilitate their learning about the Arizona cattle community. For their impromptu competition, they were given the task to ask individuals about an assigned topic such as beef nutrition and the beef life cycle. After only 30 minutes, the participants share what they learned with the judges and the competition’s attendees in a speech format.
Aiden Bell, 9, has been a member of AJLA for five years. He helps run his family’s cattle ranch in Nogales, AZ, rounding up the cattle and learning more every day. This year at ACGA convention, he participated in the prepared speaking competition, talking about four different breeds of cattle: Angus, Brahma, Hereford, and Limousin.
“My favorite breed is Angus because we raise them,” says Bell. Bell’s mother, Roxanne “Roxie” Bell is the current leader of AJLA and has been held this position for eight years.
“The kids come from a variety of backgrounds,” says Roxanne. “Some have been showing [livestock] for years and some don’t much experience at all.” She says the organization is agriculture oriented, but also promotes learning and critical thinking skills needed in the real world.
The young members of AJLA are not to be looked over. The amount of information offered to their growing minds is incredible, and they take it in with a ferocious energy. They know what their families do for a living, they know why their parents work so hard to do it, and they want to learn and be part of it.
Blog Post was written by 2017 Arizona Beef Council Intern Shayla Hyde.