Shelton competing in “Sale of Junior Champions”

“The third time’s the charm” is a phrase lost on Mikayla Shelton. For her, the magic number is five.

It took five years of competing for the Bruce High School freshman to earn a spot in the annual Sale of Junior Champions at the Dixie National Livestock Show. Her Mississippi-bred grand champion goat, Ready Or Not, was one of 44 animals among 3,000 shown this week to be judged worthy of competing. It fetched $6,400 from charitable buyers who contributed to the February sale.

This year’s sale of 13 hogs, 13 lambs, nine goats and nine steers brought in a preliminary record total of $369,150, which exceeded last year’s record total by more than $50,000.

The sale began in 1970 and has raised more than $5.49 million for Mississippi 4-H and FFA members.

Shelton is one of hundreds of Mississippi youth who groom their goats, lambs, steers and hogs all year long in hopes they make it to the sale.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Shelton, a 4-H’er and a member of Future Farmers of America at Bruce High School. “It really hasn’t sunk in yet, even though we’re here.”

From a herd of 40 does, Shelton chose seven to show throughout the year.

“I’ve worked each year to get better, and it is an honor to be here,” she said. “It means so much more to me since I brought them up from kids.”

Trent Barnett, Mississippi State University Extension Calhoun County coordinator, said he has enjoyed watching Shelton mature in the show ring.

“It’s really been fun to watch her do it on her own,” Barnett said. “Even though her parents help her with some of the labor during the school year, Mikayla decides which animals to breed and then selects the kids she will work with throughout the year. She then chooses the best feeding and exercise plan for the animals and keeps them healthy.”

Competitors invest a lot of time and energy preparing for livestock shows throughout the year, and this show is the ultimate reward for their hard work.

“This is the Super Bowl of the livestock shows,” said Dean Jousan, Extension 4-H livestock specialist. “Kids are dedicated to all aspects of the development of their animals, and getting into the sale is very exciting.”