SONY DSCby Hope Holland

The Southern Maryland Invitational Livestock Expo (SMILE) is the fruition of the collaborative efforts of volunteers from the five-county region of Southern Maryland, University of Maryland Extension staff, the St. Mary’s County Fair Board and The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland. Participation in the Southern Maryland Invitational Livestock Expo is open to youth 8 to 21 years of age from the entire region of Southern Maryland, including Anne Arundel, Prince Georges, and Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties, and other counties by invitation. The 2014 show was held on June 21 in Leonardtown, MD.

The two-day Expo includes fitting and showing and market competitions for domestic livestock — beef, swine, goats, sheep, dairy cattle and rabbits. A total of 38 youth participated in the first SMILE show in 2005, with 175 livestock entries representing Anne Arundel, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties. A total of 98 youth and 329 animals participated in the 2013 show. Youth development games and fellowship events are an important element of both show days.

This strictly youth-based show is celebrating its 10th year. According to Jay Farrell, SMILE show chairman, “Our show is one of a kind in the region and was created to help kids get the education, experience and confidence that they need to compete in the larger more challenging shows and also to have a good time.”

The kids who were showing the dairy and beef animals were concentrating on getting that education, experience and confidence, for sure. The animal entries were in admirable condition, clean as a whistle and under excellent control. After each class and sometimes during the classes, which in keeping with the stated intentions of SMILE were smaller than the norm, the judges would speak to the entrants, giving encouragement or making small corrections.

At the end of the division, the judge would take the mic and say what they thought of the class and the entries. This statement was never less than fully encouraging for those who had been in the classes.

In the Dairy section, the Junior Champion Holstein Heifer was led by Alex McCabe who was in his third year of showing. The heifer was a leased entry.

The Overall Champion was #50, a milking Shorthorn led by Laurel McCabe.

Several of the dairy entries were leased animals, handled by kids who did not have a farm background. According to dairy judge Ned Davis of Cecil County’s Earleville, MD, who has been judging for 25 years and who was in 4-H himself as a child, “The Lease Program is the only way for these kids to interact with farm animals. They have to go to the farms (and that) offers opportunity to people who do not grow up in agriculture. (It) sets the path for their careers.”

In the beef classes of those entries, only two farms were represented with home-bred animals being led by the children of the families. The rest were purchase-and-raise beef entries. The beef cattle section was definitely larger than the dairy section, proving, one supposes, that some of the kids had their eye on the money for their market steers, which is never a bad thing either.

Mary Bowen, mother of Jacqueline and Jacob Bowen, who were showing in the Beef section, said her kids were absolutely self-starters and very determined to take their Hereford heifers as far as the heifers would take them. As it turned out, Jacqueline’s heifer, PA Dayna, took her to the Intermediate Showmanship win, while Jacob’s PA Valentine took him to the Supreme Heifer title for the show.