AMBOY, Ill. — Focus is the key for Brett Buhrow when he’s in the ring showing livestock.
“It’s keeping myself focused,” said the soon-to-be senior at AFC High School.
Showing livestock is literally how Brett and his family, sister Andrea and parents Allyn and Amy, spend most of their summer. But showing pigs and cattle isn’t something Brett and Andrea were born doing.
Their dad, Allyn, and his father, Craig, are grain farmers. Craig had a swine confinement barn, but got out of the pig business when Allyn was in grade school.
“We didn’t have pigs, so we really didn’t have a background in it. Dad wanted us to get into showing livestock so we could see a different side of agriculture,” Brett Buhrow said.
He started showing in seventh grade and now is in his fifth year of showing both cattle and pigs.
This year, the Buhrows family brought four pigs and five cattle to the Lee County Fair. Their 4-H club is the Grove Go Getters.
It was another Ashton-area farmer who helped them get started with the pigs.
“Levi Meurer does a great job here in Lee County. He’s had a lot of success showing pigs, and he’s really helped us, worked with us in getting good showpigs,” Brett Buhrow said.
Meurer owns Crestview Showpigs.
Buhrow’s specialty at the 2019 set of Lee County fairs — the Section 2 FFA Fair precedes the Lee County 4-H Fair — was showmanship.
He won the Section 2 FFA Fair swine showmanship competition and then went on to win the Lee County 4-H Fair Senior Swine Showmanship award.
“Showmanship shows how much each of the participants have grown through their projects. It shows the public the practices we use in the showring and how trained the showpigs are. It’s also about being able to answer questions and talk to people and engage in a conversation,” he said.
Those are skills Buhrow plans to put to use at either the University of Illinois, Iowa State University, or Ohio State University.
“I hope to judge when I go to college, and my goal is to end up judging cattle,” he said.
Showmanship involves not only ring work with the specific species, but also a one-on-one session where contestants talk to judges, answer questions about their own project and then about the industry.
“It’s just normal background questions that they ask, so you have to know about your animal and then also know what’s going on with the industry,” Buhrow said.
He has a lot to focus on when he’s in the ring.
“I want to keep a good eye on the judge and make sure I’m navigating through and staying out of the holes, find those opportunities to get those good looks from the judge while still maintaining everybody else’s distance and figure out how you can make yourself look as good as possible,” he said.