Melissa Kaylene: Raising a Lamb.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Raising a Lamb.

Hello! If it feels like forever since I posted it was because I've been MIA since last week, and I had a good reason to be. We practically lived at the Yamhill County Fair. I've mentioned before on here that Anika is just now old enough to join the FFA and decided to raise a lamb this year and show it at fair. None of us really knew exactly what that all entailed because we had never done it before. 

We were blessed that the Ag Shop / FFA Teacher has property about a half of mile from our house so he lets any kid that wants to raise a lamb or a goat keep it at his place. It was slight chaos because I think there was like 70 of them there! Anika would go over to his house either in the mornings before it got too hot or in the evenings after the sheep had been fed and try to work with her lamb. When she first got him he weighed 86 pounds. By the final weigh in for fair he was up to 132 pounds! Considering my little girl is only about 75 pounds, this was a big challenge for her. She had to learn to catch him, keep him by her side when walking, hold his head right, clean him, and not get trampled on in the process. ;) I can honestly say I had a heck of a time holding that lamb down, it took a ton of work for her to accomplish this, and I was there to dry her frustrated tears along the way. 

After three months of working with the lamb we finally made it to the county fair, and the kids had to be in the sheep barn by 7 am each morning so they could clean the stalls, lambs, and feed them as well. The first day there was a market showing where the judge poked and prodded each lamb very carefully and judged them on their market value. This was the first time Anika had to go into the pen and she was so nervous - my heart felt for her and there wasn't anything I could do but encourage her and watch. Not only do the kids have to bring them out there and walk them where the judge says, but they do it without a collar or harness, so they need to know how to handle the animals. 

Although her lamb apparently was a little long with thin thighs (I think?) She managed it. There were several times throughout the week that she had moments of just giving up and the lamb got loose in the barn and it took several kids to catch it and load it back into its pen. I think she was just physically and mentally exhausted. 

The next day they had their showmanship awards and each kid was put into a group based on the experience level.  Anika was considered a novice since it was her first year, and there were several groups in each level ahead of her. The original time set for the competitions to begin was 1 pm, but the 4H ran over and everything got pushed back even farther, so it didn't start until 3:30, and then it took a couple of hours to finish. 

 The judge was very thorough examining the lambs and having the children move them and work with them, but he also did a wonderful job praising the kids on the huge accomplishments that they had made in a short amount of time. The top kids in each level continued to move on further and further. Anika was just happy to have completed it without losing her lamb in the process. (There were some kids that did!) 

Friday there was the final round of competitions and then an award ceremony which all FFA members had to attend in their full attire. It was held in the horse arena and I felt so bad for those kids in their outfits because it was hot - downright miserable. The entire week was close to 95 degrees, so nothing comfortable, but you put a bunch a people inside of a closed arena in button up shirts, black pants and a jacket talk about torture. The Dayton Chapter walked away with many awards, in large part due to the amazing leaders that this tiny town has. For the size of town that we are there is an overwhelming involvement in the FFA program, and you know things like that take a few extraordinary people to make it happen. I feel very lucky to have these opportunities for my children. 

Finally Saturday came, and I know that Anika was feeling exhausted. We had some short tempers and she had moments of feeling like she just couldn't make it, but we pushed through. Saturday was the final day of the fair and the annual auction - where buyers would come and bid on the kid's animals and kids would hope they could make a profit. Anika had typed up a letter inviting some local businesses to come to the auction and we attached a picture of Anika and her lamb as well as a picture that she drew of the two of them. The auction began at noon and started with swine. I then found out the lambs would be last, but we had no idea how long it would take. 

 The kids were encouraged to stay in the pens with their animals in case buyers were walking buy and wanted to ask them questions or talk with them. I printed some extra copies of Anika's letter so she could hand some out to people if they wanted. I snapped this photo of her and her lamb and just about died laughing when I saw it - it appears as if he is totally reading her letter to the buyers....I don't know, maybe it was the sleep deprivation that made it completely hilarious to us! :)

The auction went on and on. We had Emma and Noah mind you, so we kept walking around the fair, checking back in, getting slushies, checking in, on and on.... finally the lambs were up around 5 pm I believe, and Anika was one of the very last lambs, they started at #160 - 228 and she was #221. The anxiety was getting to her. She had been in the sheep barn for 10 hours straight and was just about at her breaking point. 
She finally got up to the auction and had a hard time keeping her lamb calm - I think the animals had had enough at that point too. 

Then, it was over.

A couple of people bid on her and I was lucky enough to be sitting right behind her buyer. She went over and handed him the information and certificate and shook his hand. It was a huge accomplishment.

After she left I watched as him and his son held up the certificate with her photo and I noticed one of her letters sitting next to him in the bleachers. It was a moment when everything finally sank in as I realized that we were done. We made it. The whole process was probably a little worse, only because neither Wayne nor I knew what would happen, what the fair schedule really was, how we were going to work things. It was a learning process for us all. 

In a couple of weeks the FFA leaders will sit down with the kids and do a break down on their finances. We actually had Anika borrow the money to purchase the lamb from the FFA as well as the feed, so she will pay back her loans and fair fees and then they will write her a check for what was left over.

I have a new found respect for what goes on at fairs as well as all of the dedication that those kids put into caring for those animals. I'm not sure if Anika will do it again next year or not, but at least we now know the processes  if any of the kids do decide to do it in the future again. 

I've got a lot more photos and things to talk about from our week at the fair, but I just had to share our lamb story with you first! It was a very good experience for all of us, and I'm so proud of my daughter for having the determination to follow through with it!



  1. My grandma's neighbor's used to do this with their kids. They had 3 lambs in a little suburban neighborhood. Everyone hated those lambs bleating all day long. You're lucky the FFA teacher let ya'll keep your lamb there because they get messy!

    1. Oh I know! There would be no way she could ever have one at our house (nor am I sure I'd want one unless we had a lot more land) so she is very lucky to have her teacher!

  2. Wow, that's quite a learning experience!! It's got to be really valuable for the kids to learn about the work involved so young! I'm just now getting interested in growing our own food including animals (someday - next house, not current townhouse) and have such respect for people who do it!

  3. Wanting to do something like this would've never occurred to my niece...or any other kid I know. What an interesting experience, indeed.

  4. This sounds like such an interesting and fun experience - Our neighbor last year in NorCal had a lamb and it went on walks everyday with its owner and the family's two dogs around the neighborhood!

  5. What a GREAT experience! I didn't realize that people let you use their land. I always assumed that you would have your animals on property. What a great way to get kids who don't live on acreage to be involved!

  6. It sounded like a lot of work and some unexpected amount of exercise and at the end some hot loooong days but congratulations for everyone making through it, especially Anika patiently persevering to the end. Even if the experience is not one you repeat, sounds like it was a learning and growing lesson that was valuable about not only animal care but what they are able to accomplish. Thanks for sharing!

  7. How interesting! One of our favorite things at the fairs (country or state) is to see all the FFA animals. I had no idea so much was involved!

  8. I love communities that have still strong FFAs; I feel like they are few and far between these days. Kids learn so many valuable life lessons through FFA. Thanks for sharing the experience from a parent's perspective!

  9. We just finished up our fair yesterday, it is a very long, busy week when you have animals! Congrats to Arika for a job well done. (Visiting from Blissful and Domestic Blog Hop)