Kids raise fair animals by the book
EAGLE ” Raising an award-winning animal for the fair takes time and hard work. Youngsters in 4-H also have to go by the book.
Every animal shown at the Eagle County Fair has to meet a long list of standards to win an award. Kids learn the standards, and then learn how to get their animals to meet them.
Siera Rivera and Bryanna Sandoval have done their homework with their goats and sheep. The day before judging, the friends from Gypsum, both 11, were cleaning their animals’ stalls, and doing their last-minute grooming and other work.
Rivera had two goats in this year’s show, a female “breeder” goat named Tootsie Roll and a male “market” goat named Oreo.
Despite their different classes ” breeders are generally used to make more animals, while market animals are often destined for the dinner table ” both animals have to hit the same benchmarks: strong hindquarters, a good temperament and straight legs.
Muscle tone takes work, and that means exercise for both animals and kids.
“I have to exercise him every day,” Sandoval said of her sheep, Patches. Sheep, too, need to have strong muscle tone in their back legs.
“I walk him up in a field that’s got a little hill, and then let him run down,” she said.
Feeding and walking an animal helps get them used to their owners, which makes life in the show ring a little easier. So does introducing them to other people.
Like most sheep, Patches was jumpy when Sandoval first got him. Now, a scratch on the hindquarters can get him to lean into the scratcher the way a happy dog does.
All the time kids spend with their animals can make it hard to let go when it’s sale time. Both Sandoval and Rivera said they’ll be sad to sell their animals.
That feeling doesn’t go away. Joanne Ford, 17, has been in 4-H for nine years, and has raised animals for most of that time. She raised last year’s grand champion hog, and this year has two pigs and a steer entered in the fair.
“Of course it’s hard,” she said of letting go of her animals. “Look at all the time we spend with them.”
But, she added, letting go is a little easier when the check from the sale comes.
Ask Ford about her pigs, and she can talk for hours about what kind of meat is popular in the market these days, insemination techniques and the pros and cons of various breeders. It’s an encyclopedia full of knowledge that came after a lot of hard work.
The first two years Ford took pigs to the fair, they were under the minimum weight for show animals. That’s when Ford hit the books.
She’s since taken classes about animal nutrition and showmanship. She’s watched videos and educated herself about the finer points of raising pigs, she said.
Now, with just a year of 4-H left, she’s passing that knowledge along. This year, Ford bought a pig for Ella Guzick, a young friend in her Eagle-based 4-H club, and is now showing her the ropes.
Even with good teachers and thorough instruction, there will always be pitfalls.
“When we started, I’d get the animals to go uphill by poking them in the rear with a stick,” said Dennel Rivera, Siera’s mom. “Then we found out the judges need to grab them there during a show.”
But kids, and their parents, learn the fine points as they raise animals. The payoff for the work, the time, and the broken attachments comes when kids get to be Ford’s age.
“That’s how I’m paying for college,” she said.
Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vail Daily, Vail Colorado