Teen leadership opportunities at 4-H livestock auctions

Teens can take on important leadership roles when running livestock auctions.

Summer is upon us and many 4-H families are preparing for fairs across Michigan. When the public visits the fair, they will see many different projects 4-H members have accomplished, anywhere from breathtaking photographs to beautifully hand-sewn garments. They will also see livestock projects members have worked countless hours with throughout the year.

Fairgoers may also take in a livestock auction, where they will witness the culmination of the year-long efforts and hard work of many 4-H members. Auctions are when the animals raised by the 4-Hers are sold to the public. Auctions mark the completion of a market livestock project and are when the marketing aspects are learned.

Besides the lessons learned from marketing a livestock project, teens can learn many leadership lessons through participating in a market livestock auction. There are many roles and responsibilities during a 4-H livestock auction where teens can work side-by-side with an adult leader, or even roles where teens take complete leadership responsibilities.

The following are roles and responsibilities for teens during a 4-H livestock auction where they can develop communication and planning and organizing skills by taking on leadership roles.

  • Contact the auctioneers prior to the auction. Youth practice communication skills by calling the auctioneers and following up with a confirmation letter.
  • Set up and tear down the sale ring. Youth practice planning and organizing skills.
  • Staff the information table. Youth practice communication skills by explaining the bidding and processing procedure to new buyers.
  • Register buyers. Youth practice communication skills through by greeting buyers and assuring they are registered to bid.
  • Line animals up. Youth practice public speaking skills as they call out for exhibitors while checking the order of sale.
  • Announce exhibitors and buyers. Youth practice public speaking skills by projecting their voice over a microphone to announce the exhibitors in the ring or the buyers who purchased the animal.
  • Acknowledge buyers. Youth practice handshakes and communication skills by finding the buyer after their purchase and thanking them.
  • Hand out refreshments. Even younger youth can be introduced to communication skills by distributing refreshments during a sale.
  • Record clerk bids. Youth can develop careful record keeping skills by recording a copy of the bids during the auction. Often, two responsible individuals duplicate this task. Youth can easily fulfill one of these roles.
  • Assist with bid spotting. With the permission of the auctioneer, youth might take a place in the ring to help identify bidders in the stands and shout out their intent to bid to the auctioneer. By standing in front of an audience and projecting their voice, youth are practicing and demonstrating public speaking skills.
  • Check buyers out. Youth practice communication skills by asking questions about the buyers’ preferences for shipping and processing the animal and collect payment. Youth also thank buyers and can once again practice their handshakes.

The key to teens learning leadership roles and responsibilities is having adult volunteers willing to work with teens in developing the skills, as well as letting go of their own control of the responsibilities. It is crucial teens receive proper instructions or training to be successful in these roles at an auction. Setting teens up for success through trainings is the important part of having them serve in leadership roles.

Michigan State University Extension’s leadership and civic engagement work team members can assist you with educational workshops around youth and adult partnerships, how to set up programs for youth and adults to work together as well as teen leadership trainings. There are numerous roles and responsibilities a teen can be responsible for in the 4-H program and at a 4-H livestock auction. For more information, email 4-hleadership@anr.msu.edu.

Upon your next visit to your local fair, look for youth showcasing their leadership skills and encourage youth to get involved as a leader. 

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