November 24, 2004 | By: Laura Skillman
LOUISVILLE, Ky.

Every November the world’s largest purebred livestock show comes to Louisville and members of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service pitch in their time and talents to ensure its success.

Beef, sheep, dairy and swine specialists help with the varying shows during the two-week event. Agricultural Extension agents and 4-H Youth Development agents also volunteer their time to perform a myriad of tasks needed to pull off the North American International Livestock Exposition at the Kentucky State Fair and Exposition Center ..

Harold Workman, president and chief executive officer of the Kentucky State Fair Board, said the North American began in 1974 in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and was moved to the state fair board along with him in the mid 1980s. It began with only a beef show.

“It’s a multifaceted livestock show that includes about nine different species of livestock,” he said. “We started with about 2,200 entries the first year and we’re well over 22,000 entries now. It has grown tremendously and is probably one of two major livestock shows in the United States now.”

More than 200,000 people from across the country and the world will visit the exposition. The North American’s impact is about $15 million and it takes many people to make the show a success.

“Our staff is really a very small piece of what it takes to put on an expo of this size,” Workman said. “The North American staff is made up of about eight or 10 people who work on it full time. But it takes resources from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture to provide a large number of volunteers who come in and produce the various events, whether it’s the dairy show or the sheep show or beef show. There are volunteer agents and even some of the professors that come in and spend time producing these events and without them we could not pull it off.”

Doug Shepherd, Hardin County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources, has been helping with the North American since it came to Louisvillein 1974. Over the years, he’s weighed the cattle and served as assistant superintendent before moving into the superintendent’s position in the early 1980s. He’s in charge of between 3,600 and 3,800 beef cattle for the 10 days the animals are at the show. He also puts together the staff for the beef events and works with breed representatives from the 13 breeds showing at the event.

Shepherd estimates that about half of his 40-member staff are Extension or UK staff.

“Both (retired) Dean Oran Little and Dean Scott Smith believe this is an important event that Extension needs to be a part of,” he said. “When you consider this is the biggest livestock show in the world and beef is a major enterprise inKentucky , Extension definitely needs to be taking a major role.”

Shepherd said the event offers Kentucky livestock producers a chance to see what’s happening in their industry. In addition, they can browse the commercial exhibits and see livestock handling equipment and other items.

He will be handing the role of beef superintendent to Todd Holbrook, Lee County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. When the show returns in 2005, they will serve as co-superintendents.

Holbrook first began coming to the livestock show when he was a student at UK. He also has cattle on his own farm so he has a keen interest in beef cattle.

“I really like this show,” he said. “I think it really has a lot to provide for the state, our people and communities.”

Holbrook said he also likes the cooperative spirit from Extension, the state Department of Agriculture and fairground staff.

“The staff that has been put together over the years is a heck of a team,” he said.

Before the beef cattle move into Louisville, youths from around the country bring their market hogs in to show. About 600 head were in this year’s shows and 373 youths participated in the showmanship competition.

UK Extension swine specialist Richard Coffey has been assisting with the swine shows for about 12 years and classifies the showmanship as probably the best competition of its kind in the country. The young people are what draw him back year after year. They enjoy the camaraderie and competitions that the event affords them.

“It is good experience for the kids,” he said. “They tell us they enjoy the showmanship because it is something they have to work on individually.”

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Contact: 

Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Doug Shepherd, 270-765-4121; Todd Holbrook, 606-464-2759; Richard Coffey, 270-365-7541 ext. 244