This past Saturday, May 18, Sampson County 4-Hers, particularly those interested in setting foot and hoof in the show ring, had the opportunity to experience what showing and caring for lambs and goats is like.
Starting at 9 a.m., 4-H program assistant Charmae Kendall shared with the children the basics of raising and showing lambs.
Kendall explained that lambs need to be kept in small pen most of the time. “Do not leave your lamb out on grass because he will get a grass belly. You don’t want him to be fat.”
She suggested that 4-Hers to feed their lambs twice a day in the cool morning and evening hours, but not have food available to them all the time. “You don’t want them to be too fat. You want to be able to feel their ribs a little.”
Since they live in small pens for the most part, lambs need to be exercised. “Make your lamb sprint or run three times a week,” advised Kendall. “This helps develop the muscles that judges like and are looking for.”
Another way the kids can help their lambs develop muscle is by making the lambs work while they eat, shared Kendall, describing how a feed bucket can be hung just out of the lambs’ reach with steps set in front of the bucket for the lambs to use. “Having the lambs climb the steps to reach the bucket and making them eat at that angle is another thing you can do to help them develop muscle.”
Proper feeding and exercising will go a long way to making a lamb show ready, noted Kendall, pointing out that a long lamb with a flat back, good muscle, and a nice walk is desirable.
Kendall then allowed the 4-Hers to get some hands-on practice in by taking turns leading lambs around the ring while she taught them about showmanship.
“Keep your lamb between you and judge. You don’t want to block the judges’ view of your lamb,” explained Kendall. “You will also need to pay close attention to the judges and listen for their directions.”
Kendall also showed the 4-Hers how to pull up on their lamb’s neck and then use their leg to gently push at a spot on the lamb’s chest. “This will make them square up their feet; they will automatically brace.”
Kendal noted that 4-Hers should expect to go into the show ring twice. “The first time, the judges will look at the lamb for quality, how good your lamb is. The second time, the judges will look at how well you show your lamb.”
As she watched her two children, ten year old Rhylee and six year old Joesen, lead a couple of lambs around the ring, Kim Pope shared that “this is their first time doing something like this. They have been really excited about it.”
“They have been interested in showing for some time and they are supposed to be getting their lambs next week,” added Pope. “We’re really liking it (the workshop). It’s very informative which is good because we didn’t know anything.”
Fellow 4-H parent LeAnn Brooks noted that her children had a goat but “the lambs are new for them.”
“They’ve been interested in showing for a bout a year now, but we waited until this year to start, just to make sure that they were serious and would still be interested,” continued Brooks, noting that their interest had not waned over time.
While the 4-Hers continued leading the lambs around, Charmae gave anyone who wanted it the chance to shear a lamb.
After taking her turn with the shears and watching a thick layer of wool fall from a lamb’s back, 4-Her Cameron Brooks remarked that shearing was fun. “That was my favorite part,” she said, smiling.
After learning about sheep, the children were then introduced to goats by Amanda Wheaton, a high school 4-Her from Wayne County, and her mom, Cindy.
Wheaton shared with the 4-Hers that if they are interested in owning and showing goats they need to have a safe pen, good pasture, and sturdy fencing for them.
Like with a lamb, a goat’s weight needs to be monitored. “You want to be able to feel your goat’s backbone. Your feed needs to have a good fiber content because that helps manage their hunger. You don’t want feed that’s too fatty. Make sure to feed regularly two or three times a day” said Wheaton. “Also, clean water is the most important nutrient for your goat.”
Wheaton informed the children that goats, like lambs, need to be vaccinated regularly. However, they only need to be dewormed when it is necessary. Wheaton took one of her goats that she brought and showed the 4-Hers how to look at a goat’s gums and eyes as a way to help discern whether or not deworming is needed.
The kids also learned what to expect in the ring when they show their goat.
“You need to dress nice for a show. Wear a nice button up shirt with nice jeans and boots. Don’t wear a hat,” said Wheaton, adding that they need to make sure their goat looks good as well.
“Remember to square up your goat’s feet in the ring,” said Wheaton. “The more you work with your goat before the show, the easier it will be to handle him in the ring.”
Wheaton warned the 4-Hers that the judges will often ask participants questions in the ring and that it would pay for them to know their animal’s weight, breed, age, and the proper name for the animal’s gender.
Also, “smile in the ring,” encouraged Wheaton. “Judges want to see you enjoying showing your goat.”
In addition to the kids’ knowledge, judges will, of course, judge the goat. Wheaton described how the judges will feel each participant’s goat in the ring to examine the goat’s confirmation and to determine how much fat and muscle the goat has.
“Feel your goat, or have a parent help you, the way a judge will before the class so that your goat will be used to it by the time you go to a show,” Cindy advised.
“We’re from Wayne County; we live in Dudley. We’ve been doing this 10 years now and Amanda’s been breeding her own goats for about 7 years,” shared Cindy toward the end of the workshop. “Your director here, Eileen Coite, used to be a livestock agent in Wayne County so when she asked us to come we were happy to…Amanda has taught at other camps and workshops before too. She always tries to give back.”
“No one shows goats in Sampson,” added Kendall as she watched the 4-Hers and Wheaton lead goats around the ring, “so I thought it would be good to bring them in and maybe get some interest started.”
By the end of the workshop, interest in both lambs and goats had been sparked. “My daughter is the big animal lover and I can tell she is even more excited now,” Pope attested as the workshop was winding down.
For more information about Sampson County’s 4-H program and the upcoming summer activities, please visit www.sampson.ces.ncsu.edu or call 910-592-7161.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at email@example.com.