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Family tradition a big part of Livestock Association’s identity

Showing livestock is in Toni Ladner’s blood.

The Club Advisor for the Pearl River County 4-H Livestock Association started working with animals as a child.

Her father would house a number of calves and then have her invite friends and family over to pick calves for themselves.

From that point on the animal was their responsibility until it came time to show it at a fair.

Ladner has passed on this passion for animals and caretaking to her children, with her own daughter now a part of the association.

The variety of events means that anyone interested can find a category to participate in.

“You pick your project, what fits you, and from there on it’s an every day process,” Ladner said.

“You have to domesticate it, and everybody has their own ways of doing that.”

Ladner said the size of the animal depends on the age of the member doing the showing, but no matter how old the child may be the responsibilities are the same.

“You start with brushing and washing, you get hair care done and then the last thing is feeding,” Ladner said.

The judges have a very specific set of rules to judge the animals at shows, and because of that Ladner and her 9-year-old daughter Kaci have to put in the hours to be successful.

“We get up early every morning to take care of the animals before we head to work and school,” Ladner said.

Not only is Ladner teaching her daughter how to properly care for the animals, but there are other lessons learned during her time in the association.

“You learn about winning and losing,” Ladner said.

“Your hard work pays off and you can walk out of that ring being a winner, but just because you didn’t get a ribbon doesn’t mean you’re a loser.”

Instead, Ladner uses those experiences as learning opportunities for her daughter, and lets them motivate her to improve.

However, the Livestock Association doesn’t focus entirely on the animals.

Ladner said there are a variety of community service events the members participate in, such as giving out care packages to those in need.

The shows usually occur from July to February, but Ladner said the state fair and district shows are the main attractions.

There are also jackpot shows where youngsters can show their animals, and if they win there is a monetary prize.

For Ladner, this is about more than just the money.

She wants to help others, and give back to kids who may not have this opportunity to raise and show animals elsewhere.

Her past experiences inspire her, and she hopes she can replicate the experiences she had as a child for others in the future.

“I started as a kid and the passion is still there it’s something I believe in,” Ladner said.

“I wish I could do what my parents did and provide for the less fortunate kids, and I haven’t given up on that.”