Learning How To Lead

Junior cattle producers hone skills, build friendships and earn scholarships.

Victoria G Myers
By  Victoria G. Myers , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
MSU’s Corey White shares basic horsemanship skills and tips on choosing and caring for tack, Image by Victoria G. Myers

Every summer for 26 years, Mississippi’s youth have left their home farms and ranches to trek to Mississippi State University (MSU) to learn about their state’s cattle industry. They know the days will be long and, guaranteed, hot. No video games. No Netflix. Air-conditioning may just be an oak tree. But, it’s OK, because they all come here with one thing in common: a love for cattle and a goal to discover where and how they may want to fit into that world in a few years.

Some think they want to be large-animal veterinarians. Others come from cattle operations and wonder if that life is what they want for the future. There are serious competitors on the livestock show circuit here, too; they want to learn the secrets of how a judge sees an animal in the show ring. Whatever the individual goals or curiosities, the Making Tracks Leadership Camp’s goal is to help the state’s youth figure out a path to their destination.

The camp includes youth from the ninth grade up to age 21 and is a joint effort between MSU, Mississippi Cattlemen’s Foundation (MCF) and Mississippi Junior Cattlemen’s Association. Executive vice president of Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association (MCA) Andy Berry says they see this annual event as an investment in the state’s future. He notes that along with workshops covering traditional areas like cattle handling or doing an ultrasound, the camp even provides an etiquette session. It is surprisingly popular.

“Sometimes, we don’t think about the importance of etiquette as cattle producers, but we want everyone to understand there is a business aspect to being a cattle producer, and etiquette can be a very important part of that,” he says.

In addition to the camp, the MCF helps provide scholarships to youth whose parents or grandparents are in the MCA. This year, $65,000 in scholarships went to 54 students, giving them a start to their dreams.

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