Family tradition: State livestock show legacy spans generations

By Marlee Jackson

For the Enquirer

Jeremy Childers’ gaze followed his daughter, Callie Rae, as she led her Commercial Division champion heifer in the final drive of the Jr. Livestock Expo (JLE) Beef Show in Montgomery.

That last lap around the ring was the culmination of months of work and decades of tradition for the Morgan County farm family.

“For 46 years, someone in our family has been exhibiting livestock at this show,” said Kip Childers.
He’s Jeremy’s brother and uncle to JLE exhibitors Caden, 18; Callie Rae, 15; and Colt, 12. He’s an integral part of their support system, too, offering encouragement, advice and hands-on help as the family travels the show circuit.

Showing livestock is a worthwhile, albeit time-consuming, family activity, Jeremy said.

“Most people don’t realize the amount of time and effort it takes. We have to be a team,” said Jeremy while gesturing to Colt, who tag-teams with his siblings to care for their herd.

That team effort was on display during JLE March 9-16. The Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance coordinate the annual JLE, which includes beef, swine and dairy shows and is held in conjunction with the SLE Rodeo. Across all three shows, teams of family, friends and fitters (experts in grooming animals) filled barns and the arena as exhibitors’ yearlong projects came to a close.

Their anticipation built as judges circled the ring selecting top livestock based off qualities like strength, soundness and structure. Other competitions focused on showmanship, or an exhibitor’s ability to control animals in the arena.

Claps and cheers erupted as winners were chosen. That joy carried over to the photo area manned by professional photographers Reba Hicks and Morgan Graham Flowers. Following commemorative shots with judges and a Federation representative, each exhibitors’ support system crowded around for a final photo.

Hicks and Flowers understand the value of camera clicks capturing memories. They’re former exhibitors whose families still treasure snapshots from JLE, the state championship of livestock showing.

The Childers family does, too. Those photos are special, as are the banners they’ve won over the years.

“Banners, ribbons and trophies line the wall leading to our son’s room,” said Jeremy’s wife, April. “Caden’s senior photos used those banners on the side of a cattle trailer and featured his reserve grand champion Simmental heifer from last year.”

This year, it’s Callie Rae’s turn to bring home the banners. A soft smile spread across her face — and her family members’ — as she and her Commercial heifer clinched fifth in a tough competition among overall breeding heifers. Her All Other Breeds Continental heifer earned fourth in the Alabama bred-and-owned contest.

She and fellow Top 5 winners across contests exhibited in the Parade of Champions March 16 at the SLE Rodeo.

That display helps thousands of consumers see agriculture’s strong legacy while showing up for “the greatest show on dirt,” Jeremy said.

“The one thing that makes (livestock showing) different in the day in which we live is the kids’ ability to work and stick something out,” he said. “It’s not easy, and you’ve got animals that aren’t tame yet. Do you give up, give in or give it all you’ve got? We’re teaching our kids to give everything they’ve got.” 

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