Robyn Scherer: From the Edge of the Ring 8-12-13
July, August and September are three of my favorite months around the farm, not because of what I have going on at home, but because it’s the time of year that 4-H and FFA members around the country get to showcase all of their hard work and dedication.
County fair is the highlight of the year for many youth who show livestock. They may not be able to travel to open jackpot shows or make national shows, but they can make the fair and for many, this is their only opportunity to show off.
Usually a week-long event, the fair gives youth the opportunity to show in showmanship, breeding and market classes, compete for the title of Grand Champion, and anticipate the handshake from the judge that signifies them the winner.
There are very few moments that are more memorable for youth showing livestock than the first time they win a class or a show. The feeling of accomplishment and excitement cannot be compared, and is a memory they will cherish for a lifetime.
This year I had the opportunity to work with a new 4-H member on the western slope of Colorado, brand new to showing any type of livestock. She picked goats, and worked hard all summer to prep her animals for the show.
Since I was in touch with the family every few weeks, it was fun for me to see how she gained confidence with her goats, and to see the sense of responsibility develop within her. This is one of my favorite parts about raising livestock for 4-H and FFA members.
Raising animals teaches these youth about responsibility, time management and dedication, among other skills. They learn how to work with an animal which teaches them patience, and how to keep a record book, which will be invaluable to them later in life in a job.
When the fair rolls around, they spend hours prepping and fitting their animals. Each day they clean the pens and talk to attendees to the fair about their projects. This helps teach youth about speaking to the public, and gives them a chance to advocate for agriculture.
At the culmination of the week, most fairs host a junior market livestock auction, where the best animals in each species are auctioned to the public. Youth have a chance to earn some money, and local farmers, ranchers and businessmen have a chance to support the youth and their projects.
Most students use the money gathered from the sale to pay for their projects, and whatever is left over is saved for future projects and education. There are many students that I have known who have earned enough from their decade in 4-H and FFA to pay for their entire college education. That is a big accomplishment.
Supporting youth at the sale is a great way to get involved. Many counties now offer the option to add-on to a sale price, and it makes it easy to donate a little money without the obligation of buying an animal.
Even though I have spent the last several weeks running around to various county fairs, I also have a few things going on back at the farm.
In a few shorts weeks, I will be attending my last Boer goat and my last dairy goat shows of the season, so I have been prepping the goats for both of those events. August is also the time to start breeding the goats, and I will soon be turning in my herd sire, Huck, to breed the older does for next year’s market show goats.
Shortly after the Boer show, we will begin breeding the purebred does for February and March kids, and shortly after that it will be time to breed the remaining open dairy goats for March and April kids.
The hogs will be bred in the beginning of October, which will put their farrowing dates in January. I am in the middle of deciding what boars I want to use on each sow, and will be finalizing that breeding schedule in the next few weeks.
It’s always busy around the farm in the fall, but that’s what I love! ❖