Hundreds of youth from across Louisiana will gather in Gonzales starting Friday for the 78th annual LSU Agricultural Center Livestock Show at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.

LSU AgCenter officials say they expect more than 2,000 4-H and FFA exhibitors to bring about 1,500 breeding animals, 1,600 market animals, 180 pens of broilers and 700 exhibition birds to the competition that runs through Feb. 16.

Competitors qualified for the state livestock show by winning parish and district competitions around the state.

Judges at the show determine the winners in various breeds of beef and dairy cattle, goats, hogs, poultry and sheep.

The show includes the Premier Exhibitor Program, which places emphasis and recognition on exhibitors’ knowledge and skills in the 4-H and FFA livestock projects. Supported by an endowment from Gerry Lane Enterprises in Baton Rouge, the program is available to participants exhibiting beef, dairy, swine, sheep, poultry and goats. Testing all facets of the youths’ ability in their livestock projects, the contest comprises an interview, a resumé, a test, a skill-a-thon and showing abilities.

One exhibitor will receive the Price LeBlanc Champion Livestock Award, which is presented to one grand champion market animal each year from among five species — steers, swine, sheep, chickens and goats. The award is funded by an endowment from Price LeBlanc, a Baton Rouge automobile dealer.

The livestock show also includes a quality assurance and ethics certification program that educates youth on proper and ethical use of animal heath products ensuring a high-quality, wholesome product.

While the annual event may be called a livestock show, it’s more about the young people than their animals, LSU AgCenter Chancellor Bill Richardson said.

“This event provides an opportunity for some of the most outstanding youth in the state to receive recognition for their hard work in learning not only the scientific principles that must be mastered but also the responsibility required to raise this wide array of animals,” Richardson said. “This show also is about the dedication of the many parents, teachers, volunteer leaders, 4-H agents and FFA advisers who have worked with the young people to help them grow as people and responsible citizens.”

An awards ceremony ends the show at 4 p.m. Feb. 16. It will honor champion market animal exhibitors, champion showmanship winners and Premier Exhibitors as well as recipients of the annual Superintendent of Education Award, Attorney General Award and Governor Awards.