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Celebrating 50 Years of NALJA

Published May 9, 2023

2023 marks 50 years of the North American Junior Limousin Association (NALJA). Much has happened since the organization’s infancy in 1973, and we are proud to celebrate the impact its investments have made in both the Limousin breed and the young people involved with it.

NALJA Origins

According to Mark Leonard of Leonard Limousin & Angus in Holstein, Iowa, there were five Junior Members of NALF at the National Convention in 1972 who expressed a shared interest in starting a junior association. He notes that Wyona Warren, National Limousin Queen at the time, was a big ambassador and motivator for forming the group.

An assembly of juniors gathered every day during that National Convention and slowly developed bullet points that composed a constitution and bylaws for what would some day officially be NALJA. That original group stayed in touch via snail mail and phone calls until the next year’s National Convention, July 1973 in Denver.

It was during the French Connection Limousin sale the juniors met to finalize all of their drafts before submitting it to the board at the annual business meeting that was held at that same time. The board approved their proposal.

The next step was the installation of officers for the junior association, with Ronnie Murray of Oklahoma, being elected as the first NALJA president in 1973 and Leonard elected as Secretary.  In July 1974 Leonard was elected President and served in the role until July 1976.

It was at NALF’s annual meeting in 1975 that discussions of the first junior-exclusive national heifer show (to be held the following summer) commenced.

That first National Junior Show was held alongside the World Limousin Futurity at the Iowa State Fair. Lenoard believes that this was a wise move as it earned the infant organization more attention showmen who were already traveling for the Futurity anyway.

Leonard recalls some of his colleagues who helped to make the event a success.

Leland Dudley, Fred Wood and Don Faidley  were all early leaders in the breed from Iowa ” he shares. “I couldn’t have got it done without their help. They had the connections with the Iowa State Fair to help assure barn space.  The Executive Director of NALF at the time was intensely opposed to the idea of a National Junior show, stating that without screening of entries, we’d have a lot of poor cattle show up. We went ahead with the show anyway and proved him wrong.   It was truly due to the support of the Iowa Limousin Board of Directors and especially Dudley, Wood, and Faidley that the Juniors were able to make it happen.”

Through the Decades

“The (early) publicity was mostly through the Limousin magazine, which thankfully, we really used the circulation in those days,” says Leonard. “And if you look take a look at just the historic registration numbers and we were registering 100,000 cattle a year or more several years through the 70s and 80s.”

Mark Smith of Grassroots Genetics in Ankeny, Iowa, was a staff member at the time the NALJA began. He saw the heifer show grow from 50 head to well over 300 at times.

“The early years like any other show, as a young breed and people looking to show the cattle and juniors that wanted to have it as a project,” he said. “The national heifer show and became popular because kids started becoming friends with people from other states. And they would meet every year at first national heifer show, as time went on, they started regionals.”

Like so many other people involved with junior breed organization activities, Smith avid recalls the countless lifelong friendships he established. This comradery, he believes, is part of what encourages juniors to attend the show year after year.

Bruce Lawrence of Lawrence Family Limousin in Anton, Texas,  shares how his family attended their first Junior Nationals in 1992 (held in Fort Worth) and have only missed one show (1993) ever since.

A true family affair, his daughter was both a NALJA president and served on the board, as well as his son being actively involved. Today he has grandkids that are also proud NALJA members.

“Our growth has been static for a few years until the last six to eight years, I think that the popularity of the Limousin show has really increased a lot last five to seven years,” says Lawrence.

For Lawrence, one of his most memorable NALJA honors was receiving the laurels in the bred and owned show. His grandsons Tucker and Colt have both exhibited national bred and owned champions and then won several division champions.

“I guess the highlight would have been the Amber’s boy Colt that would have been in 2020,” he reflects. “Colt exhibited the grand champion bred and owned female which went on to be reserve grand champion heifers the following days.” 

The Future of NALJA

Lenoard notes that the show has expanded the age range for juniors, but there is still a majority that do not continue with the breed after they go off to college.

While the show world has certainly played a big role in the proliferation of the Limousin breed among young showmen, Leonard believes selective breeding, DNA testing and EPDs should still maintain important production traits such as average growth rate, average for ribeye, and average maternal value – in addition to the sought-after phenotypic traits.

“The popularity in the Limousin and Limflex female and the quality of them is it brings some more people into the breed and as far as NALJA it contributes to growth,” shares Lawrence. “To the growth of that I think it’s just the programs that NALJA brings outside the showring that helps shape the future of these young people and hopefully maintain more of them and make more breeders out of them. longevity of the breed.”

Smith’s comment on the purpose of the junior show and association was “I think it’s a way that cattlemen in America can reinvest in us. And hopefully, they learn lifelong lessons and lifelong work habits, not work habits but family habits and ethics and it’s just the way that is an addition to their schooling and it involves animals.”

A true theme to farm and ranch living, Smith highlights how the life lessons kids learn from caring and being responsible for cattle will benefit them down the road with job applications and work ethics.

“Ag kids know how to work hard which is beneficial when applying to jobs,” he continues. “Kids learn those important soft skills like a firm handshake or how to carry a conversation. Whether it’s being a NALJA member or a 4-H or FFA member, you get what you put into it and the experience you have will correlate as well. It’s also okay to fail and learn from failing.”



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