30th Annual Georgia Junior National Livestock Grand Champions named
By Jennifer Whittaker
After months of stressful news cycles, “We sure could use a little good news today,” as Anne Murray sang in 1983.
The 2020 Georgia Junior National Livestock Show has released the official results of its 30th annual event, so let’s celebrate the accomplishments of the 4-H and FFA members who worked for months feeding, grooming and training their animals and themselves for the show ring to capture the prizes awarded to grand champion exhibitors. To see photos, visit www.gfb.ag/20GAJRNatLivestockShow.
About 1,500 Georgia 4-H and FFA members gathered at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry, Feb. 19-22 to compete in the 30th Annual Georgia Junior National Livestock Show. These students brought some 1,185 hogs, 804 cows, 232 goats and 201 sheep to exhibit in showmanship and species competitions during the multi-day event.
Georgia Farm Bureau is awarding the coveted grand champion belt buckles and a total of $13,000 in prizes to six exhibitors whose animals livestock judges deemed to be the best of their species to the following: Commercial Dairy Heifer - Michael Bushey of Gilmer County; Breeding Doe - Casey West of White County; Market Barrow - Brock Weaver of Colquitt County; Beef Heifer - Austin Ertzberger of Franklin County; Market Cattle - Tanner Norton of Grady County; Market Gilt - Carolyne Turner of Colquitt County.
“I fondly remember the first Georgia Junior National Livestock Show being held at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in February of 1991. It was the first time that the state steer, heifer and hog shows were held at the same time and location,” recalled Georgia Farm Bureau President Gerald Long. “The dream of holding all of the state species shows under the umbrella of one unified livestock show at one time became a reality with the completion of the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter in 1990. Georgia Farm Bureau played a role in making the show possible. Several Farm Bureau members suggested the need for a modern facility for 4-H and FFA members to exhibit their livestock during our policy development process and then our organization worked to secure state funding for the fairgrounds.”
Michael Bushey, who was a sixth grade FFA member at Clear Creek Middle School in Gilmer County when he won grand champion commercial dairy heifer, received $1,500 with his red Holstein “Sassy.” The son of Michael and Terri Bushey, of Ellijay, this was the second year Bushey showed dairy heifers.
“I worked with Sassy every day for about forty to forty-five minutes - walking her around, setting her up (positioning the animal to best showcase its physical structure),” Bushey said. “She was pretty hard to halter break.”
Bushey’s heifer is the calf of a red Holstein, Sally, that belongs to his older sister, Octavia, a rising junior who has shown dairy heifers for seven years. Both Sally and her daughter, Sassy, are descended from the red Holstein herd the Bushey siblings’ grandfather, Homer, once milked in Champlain, N.Y.
White County High School FFA member Casey West earned a $1,000 prize for his grand champion commercial doe (female goat) “Benny the Jet Rodriguez.” West, a junior when he won the award, has been showing livestock for eight years. He also shows beef cows and pigs. The son of Clay and Dedra West, of Cleveland, Casey says what he likes most about showing is meeting new people and making new friends.
“I worked with my goat every day about 45 minutes,” West said. “I rinsed it, walked it, practiced bracing it (positioning the animal to show off its muscle). I was hoping she would win and she did!”
Brock Weaver, a member of the Colquitt County High School FFA, collected a $1,500 prize with his grand champion market barrow (male pig raised for meat).
When asked what it takes to win a grand championship, Weaver shared how he trained his winning hog.
“I’m up at 6 o’clock every morning. Staying in the barn until 11 o’clock, ten-thirty at night. Always washing, feeding,” Weaver said. “It takes a bunch of effort.”
The son of Jason and Kimberly Weaver of Norman Park, Brock, has shown livestock for seven years and shows cattle in addition to hogs.
The rising junior says, “being around a bunch of people I know,” and “being always on the move - staying out of trouble, basically,” are what he likes most about showing livestock.
After showing livestock for 12 years, winning the grand champion breeding heifer award was a dream come true for Franklin County FFA member Austin Ertzberger, who won $2,500 with his 23-month bred Limousin heifer “Loretta the Limi.”
The son of Wayne and Carrie Ertzberger of Carnesville, Austin, was a senior at Franklin County High School when he won the award.
Austin put in long hours to get to the winner’s circle with his heifer.
“I head out to the barn anywhere from five-thirty to six every morning and then work with my show calves twice each afternoon,” Austin said.
Judging by the many well-wishers who gathered around him to offer congratulations on his win, Austin earned more than just money and belt buckles from showing.
“I’ve made my best friends doing this [showing],” Austin said.
Grady County 4-Her Tanner Norton made show history by winning the first ever Ga. Jr. National Livestock Market Beef Cattle Show, in which exhibitors showed market steers or market heifers. Previously only market steers competed for the grand champion market prize. Tanner won the $5,000 prize with a Maine-Chi-Angus crossbred steer that he says he picked for his heavy muscling and deep body.
Tanner, the son of Clay and Cindy Norton of Cairo, is no stranger to the winner’s circle. This is the fourth Ga. Jr. National grand championship he has won. He won the 2018 grand champion market doe and market lamb awards and the 2019 grand champion market wether.
Tanner has shown livestock including goats, sheep and pigs for nine years. He began showing cattle four years ago.
“It’s harder to prepare steer [for showing],” Tanner answered when asked which species he found the hardest to show.
He was a freshman at Cairo High School in February.
Colquitt County FFA member Carolyne Turner captured the $1,500 grand champion market gilt (young female) prize. The daughter of Richie and Becca Turner, of Moultrie, Carolyne has focused on showing only hogs for 11 years. This is the second grand championship she’s won at the Ga. Jr. National having won the 2018 grand champion barrow award.
“It’s not just the winning. It’s more about people you meet and the lessons you learn. Like learning how to take care of things, learning how to lose gracefully and win humbly,” Carolyne said when asked what she likes most about showing. “I think this is probably the best thing that people can do.”
Carolyne admits she began showing due to her mom’s prodding before developing her own passion for it.
“She made me do it for the first few years. Then I just developed a passion for it, and 11 years later here I am. I’m the boss of a 280-pound animal,” Carolyne said.
GFB has sponsored all of the Georgia Junior National Grand Champions since 2012. The organization usually hosts an Evening of Champions event for the winning exhibitors, their families and 4-H agent or FFA advisor, but the event was canceled this year due to COVID-19. In addition to sponsoring the grand champion prizes, GFB was the premier livestock sponsor for the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter’s 2019-20 show season.