I have made a few posts on the subject of DD2's sheep adventures (here and here). This post is the culmination of that project; this week has been the county Fair, which is the final destination for livestock projects of the edible kind (cows, swine, sheep, rabbits, poultry. . .). On Sunday, DD2 hauled her sheep to the fairgrounds, where they were weighed, vet checked, and checked in for the market lamb competition. Every morning since then, DD2 had headed off to the fairgrounds shortly after dawn, where she cares for her sheep, keeps an eye on them, answers questions about them (from the non-exhibiting Fair-goers), and finally beds them down for the night shortly before the Fair closes at 10:00 p.m. Long days. Fair is exhausting.
DD2's lambs, in their Fair pen
Tuesday was the sheep show. It began with a Skillathon; a sort of general sheep knowledge competition. The kids were broken into three age categories: Junior (ages 9-11), Intermediate (12-14) and Senior (15-19). DD2 competed in the Senior category, where she took 2nd place! She was amazed, and very happy, to do so well, being as she has only a few months of sheep experience and many of her co-contestants have upwards to nine years in the sheep program.
After the Skillathon was the Showmanship portion of the show. Each age category had 3 classes so that no more than 13 sheep were in the ring at one time. The top couple of showmen in each class came back to compete for Champion Showman of their age division, then the top two from each age division competed against each other for the Supreme Showman (or something like that; I probably have the terminology wrong, but there were 3 classes for Senior, then the Sr Championship, 3 classes for Intermediate, then the Intermediate Championship, 3 classes for Junior, then the Junior Championship, and finally the Champs & Reserve Champs competed for the top honor.)
DD2 (in sleeves) in Showmanship class
DD2 did not make the cut in her class, but she did very well (3rd, I think she said the score sheet had her as) and her lamb behaved well even though neither of them had been in a show ring before. All her training and practicing has taken place in a barn, in a driveway, and in a field. A completely different environment from that of a show ring. But, without a bunch of other sheep and kids, some fencing and a whole lot of spectators, it is kind of hard to replicate a show ring.
She came back later for the Market Lamb class. Her sheep weighed in at 114 and 120; and since she had entered an individual and a pen, she had to decide which lamb she wanted to exhibit as the individual market lamb. She chose the lighter one, which had her competing in the lowest weight class. She and her lamb took 8th place in that.
After all the individual classes were completed, it was time to bring her pair of lambs in for the Pen of Lambs class, where both sheep are in the ring at the same time, with many other pairs of sheep, and are judged not only on their muscling (ie, their edibility), but also on how similar each pair is. Her lambs took 4th place in their Pen class.
DD2 showing her pen of market lambs with the help of a fellow FFA member
Overall, DD2 was delighted with how she and her sheep did at the show. She picked up some pointers on Showmanship (watching closely on how those who were in the Championship run handled their sheep), made some new friends of her competitors, and decided that since she will still be young enough to show next year, she would like to raise another pair of lambs in 2016! (Which means, dear readers, that you can look forward to more sheep raising posts next spring!)
Thursday afternoon was the Large Livestock Auction; all the swine, sheep, dairy steers and beef steers exhibited go on the auction block and are sold for dollars on the pound. The exhibitor who raised the animal receives the purchase price of their animal, with the hope of covering all their expenses for the year and still having some leftover to put into their savings for purchasing new young show animals the next year (or for college; many kids build up college funds by raising and exhibiting livestock through 4-H and FFA.)
auctioning her lambs
(with help from her FFA Advisor's 7yr old son,
who borrowed one for the PeeWee Showmanship class)
DD2's lambs sold as a pen, meaning the buyer got them both and the price was figured using their combined weights. Hers went for $2 a pound; which seemed to be a popular price for the majority of the sheep auctioned (the Grand Champion Market Lamb went for $11 a pound, but that was far and away above the price of the rest of the sheep).
So, at a combined weight of 234 pounds, at $2 a pound, DD2 will receive $468 from the sale of her lambs. That covers what she spent to purchase them from the show lamb breeder, plus all of their feed and still leaves her with a little bit to use toward college. Her 2nd place award in the Skillathon brought her $200, which she plans to put toward the purchase of her laptop for school.
When asked if all the hours, days and months she spent taking care of her sheep were worth it, she happily answers "Yes. Because I learned a lot, I loved raising and working with my sheep, and I made a little money doing something I really enjoyed."
And that, people, is why raising livestock and showing them is good for our kids. Education, responsibility, prioritizing another living thing above themselves, mastering the fear of being in the public eye, and learning that money doesn't come easy. All great lessons for the coming generations who will run this country.