With fair right around the corner, local 4-H'ers and FFA members are gearing up to show the project animals that they have been planning for, working with and caring for throughout the year.
First-time shower, Jaden Scott, and market lamb, Katrina, are no exception as fair inches closer. For Jaden, the experience of working with Katrina to get her ready for fair has brought on many learning moments, but overall the experience has been a lot of fun.
For Jaden, the reputation of 4-H proceeded it. "A bunch of my friends had done it previously and I just thought it would be something to get into considering it's local and seems really fun to do," he said. The program hasn't disappointed, but there was definitely a learning curve for the first-timer.
"There has been a lot of stuff that we have dealt with that we didn't really know how to handle," he said. For example, he learned that when you first start working with your animal, it is best to keep it in a smaller area instead of an entire large pen. Jaden said that because Katrina's pen is so big, it took her a lot longer to get comfortable with him.
The soon-to-be eighth grader came into this project and new adventure with the understanding that there would be things he wouldn't know, but wanted to learn. That's why he chose to raise a market lamb.
"One of my best friends that does 4-H, she shows sheep and I guess if I have a question, I can just go to her and it is a lot easier," he said. "I have a resource book, but I don't know if that would be able to answer some of my questions so it's more or less nice knowing people who do the same thing, so you can just go to them."
As with any sort of livestock venture, obstacles often arise for county fair showers, especially when you have added requirements for your animals in order to be able to show. For Jaden and Katrina, the biggest hurdle is measured by a number — her weight.
The lamb has to make a weight of 110 pounds to qualify for fair, and Jaden said, "Last time we weighed her, which was maybe a week and a half ago, she was 104 pounds." With just about two weeks to go until fair, Scott said he has a pretty good amount of time to get Katrina past the weight hurdle and he is pretty confident they will make it.
"During the first weigh-in we had, she was like 58 pounds and so there was a little bit of nervousness, because that was in May," he said.
As a standard, show lambs are usually born in January in order to be ready come fair in July, however, Katrina was born on Feb 23, according to Jaden's mom, Sarah. Being younger than other lambs that Jaden's peers are preparing to show, is part of the reason there was concern about the lamb making weight.
"A lot of people didn't think she would be able to make it to fair because she was so small, but she hit this massive growth spurt and now I am pretty sure she will be able to make weight," he said.
From mid-May until the tail end of June, Katrina gained about 46 pounds.
What makes a show animal different from just having a few sheep, some pigs or even a few cows, is the amount of time the kids spend working with the animals, often creating a bond between them. Show animals have to be halter-broken, used to having people handle them, and calm enough to get in a ring with other people, animals and a judge, not to mention having the eyes of spectators on them.
The bond is apparent between Jaden and Katrina. After leading the lamb around by a rope for a while, the halter was removed and Katrina playfully chased Jaden up and back in her pen as he dodged around her and tried to hide himself in her small shelter in a sort of hide and seek game.
The lamb saw right through the 4-H'er's antics though and wandered into the shelter to find him. Jaden noted that the game used to confuse the lamb, but she has figured him out.
"Crazy and psycho," said Jaden chuckling, when asked how he would describe Katrina.
"She is a character for sure," his mom said.
Both mother and son agreed that this lamb has personality all her own, adding to the experience, with Jaden noting that he really enjoys just watching the lamb and spending time with her.
As a market lamb, Katrina will be sold in the auction at the end of fair, and Jaden said he will be sad to see her go.
"She has been a nice project and a really nice lamb overall," he said.
Looking forward, Jaden is fully focused on fair and wanting to do the best he can do with everything he has learned this year.
"I want to see, especially during showing, how much I have learned and how far it will take me in the bidding process of it and how well I do," he said, noting that he is currently planning to stay involved in 4-H next year, but is most concerned about making it through fair this year.
"I don't expect to do the best out of everyone, because it is my first year, but I am hoping to do good," he said.
Overall, Jaden said, "(The project) was hard at the start, but with a lot of outside help from a lot of different people, it's been a lot easier to learn how to show, what to do and what to practice with her."
Jaden's and Katrina's work isn't over yet. The Jefferson County Fair kicks off July 24, and runs through July 27, and that's where Jaden and Katrina will get to put everything they have learned and worked on together in the show ring.
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