Dawson County senior and FFA president Zach Samples won first place in showmanship at the Georgia National Junior Livestock Show in Perry in February. It is the first time any Dawson County student has ever received the honor.
Samples has been competing since his freshman year and this was his last show as a student at Dawson County.
"I was really excited considering this was my last show ever," Samples said. "Actually winning showmanship it's really a big deal."
Aside from gaining a spot in Dawson County history, he also received a $500 scholarship sponsored by the Junior Premium Catalog Scholarship Program and a belt buckle. The program began in 1995 and awards senior showmanship champions.
"Showmanship is how well you can show your animal, how well you can display your animal," Samples said. "How well you sort of track with your animal, I guess-how in sync you are with it."
Samples and the other students from FFA are loaned a calf around mid-October from a local dairy farmer. This year's calves were donated by Oliver and Sons Dairy in White County.
"I got my calf around the middle of October. Our shows started the last weekend of January and all through February on the weekends. So from basically October through January we were just taking care of them, washing them, clipping them, walking with them, just getting them used to us," Samples said.
Josh Daniel, FFA adviser, said Samples put countless hours into his animal, which showed in the arena.
"He is a dedicated FFA member who is constantly looking for more ways to become involved and to further his agricultural knowledge."
The calves are housed in the barn at Dawson County High School and students spend significant time with the animals.
"It was usually every day I would spend about 2 and a half hours with her," Samples said.
He always gets attached and this year was no different.
"It's rough getting rid of them," he said.
He named his heifer Lucy.
"Believe it or not, they know their names," Samples said.
Even though he misses her now that the shows are over, she is living happily ever after.
"She is back at the dairy, running around, having fun doing stuff cows should usually do," Samples said. "The dairy, the farmer will actually keep them, then later breed her. She will produce offspring. She will begin milking."
As for Samples' future, he plans to continue the FFA tradition. Having served as the FFA chapter reporter, vice president and president, his interests are primarily agricultural. He wants to attend Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton
"I plan on majoring in agricultural education and becoming an ag teacher and FFA advisor at a high school somewhere," Samples said.
"When I become an ag teacher and FFA advisor, I hope to influence kids the most with not only everything you learn in class and the ag-related jobs outside of high school, but the extracurricular activities you get to become a part of outside of the classroom and school day. It could be anything from showing a species of livestock, participating in FFA contests, going to numerous conventions, workshops and camps, or even different community service projects that we are a part of."
His grandparents own Buck's Corn Maze and Samples says being a part of the maze influenced his decision to take agriculture classes and become a part of FFA.
Samples is also a part of the Ag Mechanics Team that took second place in the region and 11th in state. That team competes in categories such as wiring, welding and small engine repair. This year's competition included a group activity of building rafters for a gardening shed. Other members of this year's team are Israel Tatum, Rob Cox and Tyler Margita who also won the second highest spot in the individual area.
Students learn the skills in agriculture classes at the high school and then put in the work after school to ready for competition.
"It's mostly after school. We learn a whole bunch of it in class, but a lot of it is done after school. We stay after for practice and get ready for contests," Samples said.
During the February show held at the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter several members of the DCHS FFA Show Team placed in their weight class for commercial dairy heifers:
Senior Michaela Brauda- 5th place (291-316 weight class)
Sophomores Hailey Samples-9th place (323-354 weight class)
Freshman Malachi Sheriff-5th place, Ethan Burt-12th place (357-378 weight class)
Sophomore Amber Autry- 4th place (397-407 weight class)
Sophomore Rob Cox-9th place (438-451 weight class)
Junior Tyler Margita-2nd place, senior Zach Samples-6th place, sophomore Alyssa Habermann-7th place (480-496 weight class)
Junior Austyn Locke-5th place (499-510 weight class)
Freshman Cody Byess also competed in the Creed Speaking contest and placed 6th in his group.