Ag News

Georgia Junior National Livestock champions win cash and buckles

by Jennifer Whittaker

Posted on May 17, 2024 at 5:36 AM




Georgia Farm Bureau President Tom McCall congratulates the 2023-2024 Georgia Junior National Grand Champions, from left, Jaleigh Hurst, Ava Lynn Cravey, Ava Smith, Laurel Christopher, Levi Roberts, Aubrey Welch, Katherine Colletti and Emily Strickland. / Photo by Jay Stone


Georgia Junior National Livestock champions win cash & buckles

Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) celebrated the newest group of Georgia Junior National Livestock Show grand champion exhibitors during its Evening of Champions dinner, May 3. GFB welcomed the students, their families, FFA advisors and 4-H agents to its state office in Macon.

“Your accomplishments are a testament to the values of hard work, perseverance and determination, and serve as a reminder that with dedication and passion, anything is possible,” said GFB President Tom McCall. “Georgia FFA and 4-H play a vital role in fostering the next generation of agricultural leaders and providing opportunities for young people to learn, grow and excel.”

This is the 13th year GFB has sponsored the cash prizes and belt buckles awarded to the Georgia Junior National Livestock grand champion species exhibitors.

The Georgia Junior National is open to Georgia 4-H and FFA members from across the state. The show is the culmination of the two youth programs’ livestock projects, which give students a chance to learn how to care for beef cattle, dairy heifers, hogs, goats and lambs for months, train them to be shown, and then compete for state honors as having the best animal in the various species categories.

At the 2024 Georgia Junior National, held Feb. 21-24 at the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter in Perry, 406 students showed 759 beef heifers; 183 students showed 258 market heifers or steers; 200 students showed 258 dairy heifers; 1,086 students showed 2,081 hogs (barrows and gilts); 153 students exhibited 289 ewes; 226 students showed 426 does.

About 355 4-H and FFA members showed 701 goats in the 2023 Georgia Jr. Market Goat Shows held at the Agricenter last October while the 2023 Georgia Jr. Market Lamb show drew 222 exhibitors who showed 480 lambs.

GFB awarded a total of $18,000 in prize money to the grand champion exhibitors who are: Beef Heifer - Emily Strickland, Madison Co.; Breeding Doe - Katherine Colletti, Oconee Co.; Commercial Dairy Heifer -Ava Smith, Gilmer Co.; Market Barrow & Market Gilt – Ava Lynn Cravey, Dodge Co.; Market Beef Cattle (steer) - Jaleigh Hurst, Thomas Co.; Breeding Ewe & Market Lamb - Laurel Christopher, White Co.; Market Doe - Aubrey Welch, Lincoln Co.; and Market Wether - Levi Roberts, Worth Co.

Market Wether – Levi Roberts, Worth County

Worth County 4-Her Levi Roberts exhibited the Georgia Jr. Market Wether Grand Champion at the Georgia National Fair last October. Georgia Farm Bureau Field Services Director Clay Talton presents the $1,500 prize check to Levi as show judge Brent Jennings Brent Jennings present the grand champion banner./ Photo by Jennifer Whittaker                                                            

Levi is the son of Justin and Jennifer Roberts of Sylvester. He was a second grader at Worth County Primary School at the time, and this was his third year showing goats.

Levi won with a Boer goat that he named Tarzan after watching the movie at school. He practiced with his goat in the morning and evening to prepare for the state show, his mom, Jennifer said. Levi’s uncle, Mike Roberts, has been coaching Levi during his morning training sessions that begin at 6:30 a.m.                                                                                                                  

Levi’s family has a history of showing livestock. His dad, Justin, showed pigs and cows. His first cousin, Chase, won multiple Ga. Jr. championships showing market does, wethers and breeding does during his showing career. Levi captured the 2022 Reserve Champion Market Wether award.                                                                                                                                   

North Carolina State 4-H Livestock Specialist Brent Jennings judged the Georgia Jr. Market Wether Show.

Market Doe – Aubrey Welch, Lincoln County  

Lincoln County High School FFA member Aubrey Welch exhibited the goat selected as the 2023 Georgia Jr. Market Doe Grand Champion on Oct. 7, 2023. GFB Field Services Director Clay Talton presents the $1,500 prize check to Aubrey as show judge Brent Jennings presents the grand champion banner. / Photo by Jennifer Whittaker   

Aubrey, the daughter of John and Nikki Welch, of Lincolnton, has been showing goats for 10 years. She was a junior last fall at the  time of her win.   

“She’s real chill most of the time except today in the ring,” Aubrey said.                                   

North Carolina State 4-H Livestock Specialist Brent Jennings, who judged the Georgia Jr. Market Doe Show, looked past Peaches’ show ring antics and saw the doe’s structure and muscling to pick her as his champion.                                                                                                         

Aubrey said she practiced twice a day with Peaches from April 2023 until winning the state title in October.                                                                                                                           

“I practice right when I get home from school and then later in the evening with the family,” Aubrey said.                                             

In 2022, Aubrey captured the Georgia Jr. Reserve Champion Market Doe award.                       

Aubrey had a great weekend showing her goats at the 2023 Georgia National Fair. She showed the Reserve Grand Champion Georgia Jr. Market Wether and had the 3rd place wether in that show.                                                                                                

“It’s been great. I had a good weekend,” Aubrey said.                                                                  

When asked what she likes most about showing, Aubrey answered, “The friends and people feel like family.”                           

Showing goats has been a family affair for the Welches for years as both Aubrey and her older sister Madie showed.

Market Lamb & Breeding Ewe – Laurel Christopher, White County  

White County FFA member Laurel Christopher exhibited the 2023 Georgia Jr. Market Lamb Grand Champion at the Georgia National Fair Oct. 8, 2023. Show Judge Marvin Ensor presents the grand champion banner as GFB Ambassadors Carrie Keown & Gracie Grimes present the $1,000 prize check to Laurel. / Photo by Jennifer Whittaker                               

Laurel, the daughter of Scott and Cam Christopher, of Cleveland, has been showing lambs for four years. She previously showed goats for four years.

Laurel won with a black-face cross lamb she named Mr. John after the breeder she got him from.

“Honestly we thought the other lamb we had would win, but this one finally came on and decided it wanted to win,” Laurel said.   

When asked what it takes to exhibit a grand champion, Laurel replied, “You can never work too hard. If you put in the hours [practicing] it will all weigh out in the arena.”    

Laurel started showing after her ag teacher said she was starting a lamb program.          

“She said we want you to be in it, and the rest is history,” Laurel said smiling.   

Laurel said what she enjoys most about showing is “The people. The show community.”

Marvin Ensor, who recently retired from Texas A&M Extension Service, judged the lamb show.

Georgia Farm Bureau Field Services Director Clay Talton & GFB Women’s Leadership Committee Chairman Stephanie Branch present the $1,000 prize to Laurel Christopher for exhibiting the 2024 Ga. Jr. National Grand Champion Breeding Ewe as show judge Gene Winn of New Mexico presents the trophy. / Photo by Jennifer Whittaker

Laurel won the breeding ewe grand champion award with a black-face cross ewe named True Peach. Gene Winn of New Mexico judged this show.

Laurel is graduating from high school this May and is headed to Redlands Community College in Oklahoma where she received a scholarship to judge livestock.

Market Barrow & Market Gilt - Ava Lynn Cravey

By Jay Stone

Georgia Farm Bureau Field Services Director Clay Talton & GFB President Tom McCall present the trophy and $1,500 prize to Ava Lynn Cravey for exhibiting the 2024 Ga. Jr. National Grand Champion Market Barrow as show judge Ryan Sites offers congratulations. /Photo by Jay Stone


Ava Lynn Cravey, who was a ninth-grade student at Dodge County High School when the livestock show took place in February, won grand champion honors for Market Barrow and Market Gilt.

Each hog won Ava Lynn $1,500 for being selected the grand champion in its respective show.

Her favorite thing about showing animals?

“Probably being with my family,” Cravey said. “Really, just enjoying having everything we’ve worked for this season pay off.”

Cravey is an FFA student whose mother, Jody, is her FFA advisor.

Ava Lynn named her cross-bred barrrow, Zazu, after the colorful bird in The Lion King. Judge Ryan Sites of Oklahoma selected Zazu grand champion of the Market Barrow show.

Georgia Farm Bureau President Tom McCall presents the $1,500 prize to Ava Lynn Cravey for exhibiting the 2024 Ga. Jr. National Grand Champion Market Gilt as show judge Will Hilty offers congratulations. /Photo by Jennifer Whittaker

Cravey's gilt, named Shades “because the pig is cool,” was named grand champion by Judge Will Hilty of Pennsylvania.

Cravey, the daughter of Jody and Corey Cravey of Eastman, said she started showing livestock when she was two years old.

“I’m just really thankful for all of the people who have helped get me this far,” Ava Lynn said after winning the Market Gilt show.

Commercial Dairy Heifer – Ava Smith

Ava Smith, an FFA member at Gilmer County High School, won the grand champion prize of $1,500 in the Georgia Jr. National Commercial Dairy Heifer Show with a Holstein she named Lovie.  GFB President Tom McCall presents the prize check as judge Katharine Knowlton presents the trophy. / Photo by Jennifer Whittaker

This was just the second year that Ava, the daughter of Jason & Kelly Smith, showed dairy heifers. She had been working with Lovie and preparing for the state show since August 2023.

“I work with her two times a day, seven days a week,” Ava said.

When asked if she worked with her heifer during school breaks she answered, “Especially during school breaks!”

In fact, Gilmer County High was on its winter break the week of the state livestock show, and Ava’s FFA Dairy Show team was at the show from Wednesday through Friday.

Ava previously showed pigs in middle school. One of Ava’s ag teachers, Shelby Merrell, encouraged Shelby to try showing dairy heifers.

“I like showing dairy heifers because I like having more control over my animal in the show ring,” Ava said.

Ava said her heifer, Lovie, wasn’t hard to halter break but added she could be pretty moody depending on the day.

Katharine Knowlton of Virginia judged the commercial dairy heifer show.

Beef Heifer – Emily Strickland

Madison County FFA member Emily Strickland’s High Percentage Simmental heifer, Jackie O, was selected the grand champion of the 2024 Georgia Jr. National Breeding Heifer Show. Georgia Farm Bureau President Tom McCall presents the $2,500 prize as show judges Mark & Deb Core of Iowa present the trophy. / Photo by Jennifer Whittaker

“I feel blessed, honored and so excited,” Emily said after her win.

The daughter of Tripp and Carlton Strickland of Danielsville, Emily has been showing livestock for eight years. She’s shown only cattle for the past five years, but also showed goats for her first three years.

Emily said her family was looking for a heifer that was “just a balanced, complete cow that showed all the structural soundness you want,” when they picked her winning heifer.

Jackie O was due to calve in April. “Hopefully, if she has a heifer, she’ll show up in the ring next year.”

Emily said in the future she plans to use Jackie O’s eggs to do embryo transfers with other cows in her herd.   

When asked what advice she would give younger livestock exhibitors, Emily said, “Be consistent and work hard. I’ve had to be diligent day to day working my cattle no matter what life throws at me.”

A junior in February when she won the show, Emily said she enjoys the relationships she’s made statewide and across the country by showing cattle.

“It’s really brought our family together and taught me a lot of life lessons.”

Mark & Deb Core, a husband & wife team from Iowa, judged the beef heifer show.

Breeding Doe – Katherine Coletti

North Oconee High School FFA member Katherine Coletti exhibited the 2024 Ga. Jr. National Grand Champion Breeding Doe. Georgia Farm Bureau Field Services Director Clay Talton presents Katherine with the $1,000 prize check as GFB Women’s Leadership Committee Chairman Stephanie Branch presents the trophy. Show judge Lane Halfmann of Texas congratulates Katherine. / Photo by Jennifer Whittaker 

A junior at the time of the show in February, Katherine has been showing goats for five years.

She is the daughter of Norman and Kelli Coletti of Bogart.

Katherine said she worked with her winning goat, Dua Lipa, named for the singer, since May 2023, walking her and teaching her to stand still while she braces her to show off her muscles. The pair competed in about 18 shows before arriving at the state show.

When asked what she enjoys about showing goats, Coletti answered, “The people you meet and friendships you make, the experience of traveling to shows, and I really like the fitting part of getting my goat ready for show day. It can be hectic but it’s fun!”

Lane Halfmann of Texas judged the show.

Market Beef Cattle – Jaleigh Hurst

Thomas County Middle School FFA member Jaleigh Hurst exhibited the 2024 Ga. Jr. National Grand Champion Market Beef Cattle – a crossbred commercial steer with Maine influence. Georgia Farm Bureau President Tom McCall presents the $5,000 prize as judge Jeff Jackson presents the trophy./ Photo by Jennifer Whittaker      

Jaleigh, who has been showing livestock for six years, is the daughter of Joseph and Chasity of Ochlocknee. She was an eighth grader when she won the show and will be entering high school this fall.

Jaleigh said she likes showing cattle because she “likes a challenge.”

She named her winning steer Stetson after the University of Georgia’s former quarterback.

“My family agreed that when Georgia won the National Championship in 2023 that we’d name the steer I got to show after Stetson Bennett,” Jaleigh recalled.

She said she worked with her steer for about eight months before the state show.

“I worked him just about every day during that time. For the past month leading up to this show I’ve been getting up at five a.m. to work him before school and then I work him after school.”

Jeff Jackson of Texas judged the show.

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