If Welch, Oklahoma, FFA member Maddi Gilman knows how to do one thing right, it’s showing livestock. The 18-year-old woman first started showing when she was 9 and now it’s become a beloved hobby she doesn’t want to leave behind.
At the Inter-State Fair in Coffeyville, Kansas, she placed second in both of her classes, earning her the title of third overall Hampshire and fourth overall Duroc. Although Gilman started showing with pigs, she was 11 when she diversified with lambs. By age 17, she made it her mission to show one of every species.
“The hardest thing was finding time to work with all of them,” Gilman said.
Not only did she show, but she was active in FFA, played softball, and competed in track and cheer, plus keeping up with all of her homework.
“In the beginning, I did not manage time well but now I’m pretty good at it,” Gilman said.
This isn’t the only lesson she has been taught through livestock. Gilman also learned lots of responsibility and leadership skills over the years, along with some showmanship skills she uses in the ring.
“When I was little, my parents would always make me go up and watch the seniors and then I would get to go in the ring,” Gilman said. “That was something that helped me learn a lot because you look up to those people and you’re going to do exactly what they do.”
Today, younger kids are looking up to her. With her experience showing at the Inter-State Fair, the Craig County Fair, and bigger shows such as Oklahoma Youth Expo, she has lots of advice to share.
“You want to pick your species on your personality,” Gilman said. “If you’re scared and timid — you probably don’t want to work with cattle, but the more you work with anything, the more calm it will be.”
She also advises about the feeding process, making sure kids understand what’s wrong with their feeding rituals and how to fix them with the right supplements. Most of all, she recommends having fun and making friends.
“You have a lot of friendships outside of the ring that get really competitive once you walk through the gate,” Gilman said.
One relationship she’s glad she has formed is with the people who purchase their own show animals from her.
“I see how many lives they change and how many people they get to meet,” Gilman said. “I know they’ve changed my life dramatically.”
She plans to give back to her community in the same way. Since graduating from Welch High School, she’s heading to college at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, where she plans to get a degree in nursing. After she’s done with college, she wants to head back home and open her own show pig farm.
While she will miss showing, she’s excited to help her younger brother and other kids who have come up to her for help.
“Showing definitely changes your life,” Gilman said. “It gives you a new perspective.”
(Sunny Webb is a Labette County High School FFA member and Farm Talk summer intern.)