GIRARD — Naming the livestock is only part of the “fun” of participating in the 4H fair.
Last year 10-year-old Kole Harris, of Hepler, brought his sheep Lightning and Thunder and his ewe Rainy to the fair.
This year he brought sheep, Mario and Bowser — who were named after video game characters — and his sister seven-year-old Kinsley, brought her sheep Yoshi and Cashew. The siblings also brought their swine, Bacon, Eggs and Pancake, along with several heifers and steer.
The children must feed, groom and train their livestock. They must be knowledgeable about their animals and present them in front of judges who then give the children feedback.
“You learn a lot from the judges,” Kole said.
For Kole, sheep are the way to go. He said they are much gentler than goats and they do not have horns. Goats also “eat everything,” he said.
Livestock are not new to him, he’s grown up with them and the whole family doesn’t even go on “vacation” without bringing a couple of animals, his mother Jeanna Harris said.
Kinsley said although she prefers to spend most of her time with the animals, she does go check out other parts of the fair on occasion, but she said “I need to get back to it [the barn] because someone has to feed them.”
For the past several months Kole and Kinsley have prepared for “fair week.”
There were many things to be completed before then, Kole said.
One thing people may not know about sheep and the fair, Kole said, is the sheep do not get clipped until a day or two before the fair.
“Sheep have a special oil and the judge makes sure it is there,” Kole said pointing to the oily places on his sheep Bowser. “The special oil makes them look slick.”
The judges are also looking for a “good wide rack, good hips and chest and a little bit of shag [hair near feet],” he said.
Swine, on the other hand, “you have to work with them every day or they will forget [their training].” he said. The swine also must be kept out of the sun because “you can’t let them get a sunburn, it will show the judge you are not taking care of the animal,” Kole said.
Kole isn’t as much of a fan of swine as his sister and prefers sheep over both swine and goats. She brought Bacon and Pancake who are 253 and 254 pounds respectively. They are each approximately four times Kinsley’s own weight.
“Swine are my favorite,” Kinsley said.
Kinsley said the judges look for muscle and “a nice sized loin.” But most of all, she said, they are looking for soundness, which is the curve of the pig’s back.
The fair isn’t just a place where Kole and Kinsley can show off their livestock, it is also a place to meet new friends and share.
Their mother said they’ve met children from all over Crawford County and she encourages the children to visit with others to strengthen their socialization skills. Other projects, such as arts and crafts, food contests, rocketry and moren — along with the socialization aspect — help her children become well rounded, she said.
Kole said he hopes the friends and connections he makes during the fair would last into their adulthood where they can buy their friend’s calves and “make a friend proud.” Like his friend Zeb Poland who also brought livestock to the fair.
Kinsley walked around the fair with her friends Maleeya Montee and Quinn Poland, who are also seven-years-old and brought their own livestock. Kinsley and Kole’s cousins also participated in the fair, it’s a time for friends and family to visit they said.
Their mother, Jeanna, said the fair teaches children compassion towards both the animals they are caring for and for one another. It also teaches them respect and accountability.
The fair is like a sport for their family and like with any other sport good sportsmanship, politeness and compliments towards other competitors is important, she said.
Kole and Kinsley’s results
Grand Champion Junior in Sheep Showman
Reserve Grand Champion Overall Market Lamb
Grand Champion Junior Beef Showman
Grand Champion Overall Market Steer
Champion Charolais Heifer
He also received blues on his pig and other projects
Reserve Grand Champion Junior Sheep Showman
Reserve Grand Champion Junior Beef Showman
Grand Champion Feeder Steer
Kinsley’s steer won his class, her pig received a blue ribbon and her two sheep were second places in their classes. She also received blue ribbons in photography and craft and purple ribbons on a poster and a craft, along with her oats and hay projects.
From etymology to bucket calves, 4 H has an event for almost any hobby or life skill.
Not only do children learn how to take care of sheep and identify types of rocks, they also are taught leadership and responsibility, “to create more well rounded individuals,” 4H and Youth Development Agent Will Morris said.
The four H’s represent:
• Head - critical thinking, problem solving.
• Heart - self discipline, integrity, communication.
• Hands - serving others.
• Health - choosing healthy lifestyles.
Although often associated with rural communities, 4H is open to children aged seven to 18, from any area.
To get involved all people can contact the K-State Research and Extension Office and ask for 4-H Youth Development to get the ball rolling.
For most projects, children work year-round and the fair is when children have an opportunity to showcase their projects. This includes a presentation in front of a judge, along with their exhibit or animal.
The judges give their opinion and constructive criticism, which the is an opportunity for the child to learn, rather than receive a ribbon, Morris said.
The project itself is intensive, Morris said. For example, not only would the child have to care for a bucket calf, she would have to know parts of the calf and be able to lead and position the calf at the fair. In addition, the child would be required to reflect on their project — including how well the project went and what they might change.
“It really puts it on them to be knowledgeable, to seek out knowledge and gain knowledge,” Morris said.
With 4-H’s motto “to make the best better,” Morris said the goal of the organization is to “help instill a sense of belonging and really remind them why they are there, it’s not just to win ribbons at a the fair.”
Clothing and Textiles
Crops and Crops Judging
Demonstrations and Illustrated Talks
Foods and Nutrition
Geology and Lapidary
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.