Lamb for 4H

Discussion in 'Sheep' started by hayzor, Jun 1, 2005.

  1. hayzor

    hayzor Well-Known Member

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    I have a 9 yr old daughter that wants to get into 4H and raised a lamb. I am contacting the local 4H chapter and getting some info from them. It sounds like the time to raise them in this area (AZ) is from fall thru spring-early summer. the county fair is in April.

    Looking for some additional do's and don'ts from some vetrans before going down this road. We've raised a couple of calves and pigs for meat and have some chickens, but a lamb would be new for us.
    My daughter is very responsible, but I don't want this to be overwhelming and leave a bad taste in her mouth.

    Thanks
    Erik
     
  2. kesoaps

    kesoaps Well-Known Member

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    Erik, we got out first sheep a year and a half ago, this summer will be our second fair. I love sheep! DD is 11 and this is her first project in 4-H, much easier to handle than a cow, pig or horse. They're easy going animals for the most part (I've got one who's a bit loopy, but the kids can still handle her so I don't mind.) They eat relatively little compared to a calf. In fact, I fed 4 sheep on what it took me to feed one small easy keeping horse over the winter. They're small enough for kids to trim feet on their own and learn to deworm and all that good stuff.

    Can you tell I support this new venture? Get her a lamb before she finds out about boys. With any luck she'll be so involved with sheep that she'll not even know boys exist :D
     

  3. SilverVista

    SilverVista Well-Known Member

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    Both my girls grew up raising lambs in 4-H. Regardless of the choice of project, 4-H offers a wealth of opportunity for kids to develop character and leadership while learning skills and competing in an area that interests them. If you're already savvy about raising other large livestock (as opposed to bunnies, etc), and if you're willing to be very involved with this project, then it's an excellent one. Be aware that there are two approaches to kids and livestock at the fair. One involves families who insist their child take responsibility, make well-researched choices, and excercise good sportsmanship. The other involves lots of politics with winning as the only focus. It's a wonder to me, but there seems to be more politics in sheep than in any of the other species at the fair, and if you've ever been amazed at the behavior of Little League parents, just wait till you meet a few show jock parents!

    We tried to access as many 4-H opportunities as possible for the kids -- dozens of livestock projects, homemaking and educational display projects, public service, junior leadership and so on. My younger daughter actually ended up as a 4-H State Ambassador and was among those chosen to attend the 4-H National Congress during her senior year in high school -- an all-expense-paid trip to Atlanta with 4-Hers from all over the country! All those years, I provided transportation, start-up funds and advice, but the kids knew that when they succeeded, they had earned every inch of it themselves. I STILL can't shear a sheep, the DD's come home and do the whole flock!

    Long story short, I guess I'd warn you to be eyes wide open about competitive livestock situations, be prepared for BUCKETS of tears (both your and hers!) when that first market lamb sells at the fair auction, and please search your heart to give back to the program as you and your daughter grow and learn, because the whole darn thing is carried on the backs of volunteers. Otherwise, GO FOR IT! NOW!! :cool:

    Susan
     
  4. kesoaps

    kesoaps Well-Known Member

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    Susan, it must be a geographical thing, because our sheep barn is soooo relaxed in comparison to what I grew up with in the horse barn here. The horse kids can be cut-throat, but DD's first fair last year she had all sorts of kids she didn't even know offering to help groom and clean up. It was such a refreshing change! I even commented on it to a long time 4-H mom, and she agreed that this was a great group of kids/parents to work with.

    I do agree, though, that there will still be those parents who jump in and do the work for their kids. You'll find that everywhere, unfortunately.
     
  5. SilverVista

    SilverVista Well-Known Member

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    LOL, Kesoaps, I know what you mean about the horse barn! If your county's sheep barn is really as laid-back as you say, you're very fortunate. We, for the most part, do have an excellent kids-helping-kids atmosphere, but we also were forced at one point to do some drug testing of market animals, and we have seen market lambs imported from the east coast at prices in excess of what the kids could possibly have hoped to gain at the auction. We've seen a surgically altered lamb, lambs with their yearling teeth filed to pass for lamb teeth, lambs who had been "shrunk back" to within an inch of their lives to make them rock solid. My favorite incident was one year when I was weighing market lambs at our county fair. One dad accused us of having the scale rigged, and he did it in a very loud, angry voice. Crowd gathered. He swore up and down that his kid's lamb weighted 15 lbs more at home, just an hour ago. We showed him the scale certificate, still no go. Basically, he didn't want that lamb to compete in a lower-weight class because even properly finished, a 105-lb Dorset doesn't have much chance for champion against a similarly finished 125-lb Hamp cross. I finally stood up and said, "well, I'm embarrassed to say that I weighed 142 this morning at home." I opened the gate, stood on the scale, and the weighmaster set the balance. 143.5 lbs. Red faces all around. End of story. I could tell quite a few stories, after awhile it was almost funny in a pathetic way because most of the families had excellent animals and very hard-working kids but were afraid they might need that extra little edge.

    I actually dislike discussing this kind of thing because I come out sounding jaded and bitter, which I'm not. My family didn't have an ag background, and our entry into 4-H 15 years ago was our "baptism" into competitive livestock, and it took awhile to figure out where the middle ground lay. I mention it when others ask, because there is such a wide learning curve when you first get into youth livestock projects that culminate in a competition. There is so much good to be gained -- enormous advantages for our rural kids over what's available to city kids -- but you can't go along naively thinking that everybody's on the same page.
     
  6. hayzor

    hayzor Well-Known Member

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    thanks for the responses. I have no idea how the competition is in this area. It'll be interesting to see how it shakes out. At least i'll have my eyes open. My goals for my daughter are for her to have fun, meet some good kids w/ similar interests, learn responsibility and some work skills and win whatever the cost. :haha: :haha: Just joking about the last one.
     
  7. Oceanrose

    Oceanrose Driftin' Away

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    Find an adult who can be a GOOD mentor. I've been involved in 4-H, and other competitive animal showing since I was 11 years old. It's a ton of fun, very cutthroat, but you can succeed IF you set it up correctly.

    1 - Research before you buy, and then get the absolute best animal from the best lines you can. Don't be scared off of rare breeds, but find quality.

    2 - Get a mentor, ideally the breeder of your animal. If they're a jerk, find someone else.

    3 - Make your daughter write out a list of short and longterm goals, and how to reach them.

    4 - Have her volunteer at the tables, and WATCH everything you can. Go to other shows beyond 4-H.

    5 - Have fun. It's a ton of fun, but winning makes it even more so :).

    6 - Let her make the decisions, do the research etc. Be prepared to be there, but it's her deal. I never had any help from my mom besides driving to and fro etc and am very grateful for that today. Of course my mom I think was still in shock that I switched from competitive dancing to animal barns (never looked back either lol).

    Heather

     
  8. kesoaps

    kesoaps Well-Known Member

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    :haha: Now you've got the hang of it, lol!

    This is just my opnion, of course, but I don't think buying the best animal you can find is really at the top of my personal list when searching for sheep as a 4-H project. I guess it depends on your budget and goal.

    DD's ewe cost a whopping $25. She was part of a lawnmowing flock, bred for nothing more than chomping down the grass. My thought is that if you work at your breeding program, you can improve on it. DD worked hard last year and won a couple of blue ribbons. May not have been championship ribbons, but she held her own against lambs that cost 4-5 times as much as she paid. It can be rough the first couple years, but success is so much sweeter when you've learned and earned your way to the top vs buying your way there (not that there are any guarantees you'll win just because you paid more!)

    Over all I guess it depends on what reason you have for paying for bloodlines. In 4-H, I just don't see a reason for it. Sheep are cheap (compared to horses!), kids can build their own flocks and enjoy seeing the improvements in their line, which is something they can take personal pride in. Again....just my thoughts and opinion on the matter.
     
  9. Oceanrose

    Oceanrose Driftin' Away

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  10. kesoaps

    kesoaps Well-Known Member

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    I guess I shouldn't have said not to buy the best you can find...but my mind was thinking along searching out the high end animals. Unfortunately, many people equate quality with $$$. As you stated about your bunny, there are bargains everywhere!
     
  11. stellie

    stellie Well-Known Member

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    Do's and Don't's, eh?

    DO: Get at least two lambs, no matter how many you're showing.
    DON'T: Have the lamb stuck to itself.
    Sheep will eat and gain more weight while they're happy with at least one other lamb.

    DO: Find shows in the area going on now.
    DON'T: Go into the project blind.
    You'll find lots of novices (first time showmen) at the fairs, but even more people who are seasoned showfolk with lots of stories, lots of advice and a few sheep to give you an idea of what to look for when you buy your lamb and even what to do to start training it!

    DO: Get a ewe lamb.
    DON'T: Get a wether and taunt the kid about it going to slaughter at the end of the show.
    ...so many parents did this to children at our local show.