Embracing our Past. Engaging our Present. Defining our Future.

Impact of Youth Livestock Projects-An interview with Mr. Jeff Thayne

Jeff Thayne Director of San Antonio Livestock ShowJeff Thayne is currently the Managing Director of Competitive Events at the San Antonio Livestock Exposition. He works with the livestock show, horse show and rodeo as well as the daily operations and logistics of the expo. He has had quite a journey to reach this position and was kind enough to tell us his story.

Growing Up

Jeff grew up on his grandfather’s small cattle operation and thrived in the rural environment. Here he learned the character and integrity of the culture. Even when Jeff and his family moved off of his grandfather’s land, he gravitated toward the agricultural realm. Looking for ways to get back into that culture, he became involved in 4-H showing pigs then branched out into heifers and steers. He said his swine projects impacted him most as he began showing them very young.

His progress then took him into livestock judging. With Chuck Real as his coach he learned the ins and outs of judging multiple species. In this event he built relationships that “stood the test of time.” Over the years, his knowledge about animal science and husbandry was expanded beyond raising livestock. Thayne said that he valued the chance to work with influential 4-H volunteers like Chuck Real. Real helped to shape Jeff’s life early on and helped him learn to make sound decisions. He learned what drives people and was able to harness that concept in his adult life.

His judging success took Thayne and his team all the way to Kansas City, Missouri where they were able to compete at the American Royal. Jeff said that this trip stood out in his mind as a huge accomplishment for the team. “It was a culmination of a lot of hard work and allowed us to have a brand new experience” as it was the first time that most of them had left Texas.

Moving Up

Taking the public speaking and decision-making that he learned from judging, Jeff moved to Iowa State University to coach a judging team and lecture in animal science. Here, he saw a drastic difference in the opportunities and support the youth livestock industry has here compared to Iowa. With a new appreciation for the support Texas gives their young people, Thayne came back and began working for the San Antonio Livestock Exposition in 2009. That November, he became the livestock director and worked in that facet until two years ago when his duties expanded to include the horse show. His position changed again last year when he earned his current title. He now oversees the operations and logistics of SALE but is still heavily involved in the livestock and horse shows, a major component of SALE.

When asked how his experiences prepared him for his work, Thayne commented that he was fortunate “growing up with the mentors his parents and grandparents surrounded him with.” Their character, integrity and work ethic showed him who he wanted to be. “Chuck (Real) was definitely one of them,” he said, also naming Ryan Rathmann and Chris Skaggs. These men were “driven to do things the right way, with hard work,” a key to Thayne’s work. He also said that he appreciates that not everyone with livestock projects comes from agricultural backgrounds. Projects may be the best way to get involved and with work hard, they can be successful. His love for the program led him to understand the impact on young people, families and communities.

Showing Up

SALE makes a great impact in the San Antonio community. It provides incredible support to its FFA chapters and 4-H clubs through scholarships and other means and prides itself on the impact on volunteers. It allows so many people to give back to their community, giving them a personal stake in the growth and promotion of the industry. Jeff gets to see them build themselves up and learn from one another as they take the elements of agriculture back to their lives. This gives each individual an effect on the perception of agriculture.

Perhaps the most important way SALE impacts the area is its ability to spread the message of agriculture, showcasing 4-H and FFA programs. The exposition is open to anyone with a ticket. Anyone can witness the “hard work, character and background of those that exhibit there.” Exhibitors can be commended for their work and the show can be an educational tool. Thayne said that he feels the biggest strength of SALE is letting patrons see the faces behind agriculture.

SALE also offers educational entertainment and exhibits for their patrons. These include animal discovery exhibits, a rodeo experience exhibit and farm-type booths. Each of these is aimed at the basic knowledge of attendees and educational nuggets provided in a fun atmosphere. SALE hopes to trigger the community’s mindset for informed decisions concerning agriculture.

Summing Up

Jeff Thayne has become a major player in furthering agriculture, specifically livestock projects. He ended saying “one realization is that this is definitely a venture.” A large part of that is working with character from society’s perspective. While Thayne believes we must recognize our industry’s opponents, it does not need to be our main focus. It may be easier to focus on those working against us but we must realize that we have a personal responsibility to our trade to “make sure the decisions that we make are in the best interests of our industry going forward.” That’s just what Texas Youth Livestock plans to do.

By Whitney Green