This is our second year doing 4 H and our second year showing animals at the county fair. Last year fair was such a good experience for all of us. Emma was showing a couple goats, and Cecilee and Wyatt tagged along. They all had so much fun! Emma took third in showmanship and had a blast doing so, and Chrysanthemum shone in the mix breed class as a dry yearling doe (the Linn county show bases off of ADGA breed standards, and does not recognize mini’s).
Everyone had so much fun, in fact, that this year we ramped it up a whole bunch! This was Cecilee’s first year able to show a large animal as a Junior showman, and so she showed Chrissy. Emma showed Penelope, Maple, and her chicken Grace, and Wyatt branched out and spent March-July raising market goats. He showed and then sold one of his goats at market. All of these activities meant that we had 9 different shows in a 3 day stretch, and then auction on Saturday. It meant that I had to take my a little bit shaky at times organization skills to a whole new level, with multiple different outfits and supplies needed at different times, and different animals needing buffed and puffed for show. It meant getting up early to do all the farm chores and be at the fairgrounds by 7:30 each morning, staying late to do the evening milking, and then go home and do all the farm chores at home. It meant packing lunches early in the morning before waking protesting sleep deprived children, and making sure outfits were ironed, a clean milk bucket, and the hay and feed for the next day were in the car the night before. It meant watering the garden late or early.
I literally wore out a pair of shoes.
With 2 kids old enough to go places relatively independently, and one that is pretty good with a buddy system, my kids were spread all around. With animals in both the small and large animal barn, the fun stuff in a whole other section of the fairgrounds, and parking a half a mile away (sometimes there were shuttles), I spent a high percentage of all of my days walking, checking on people, animals, or hauling stuff. 4 H has this idea that the kids will do all the work. They really do a lot of it. But as proficient as my kids are doing things, they still need direct supervision frequently, and I had to check to make sure they were doing all the things. Texting and calling has made the modern 4 H mom’s life a whole heck of a lot easier, but I still frequently had to track them down in person. Whew! I am tired all over again thinking about it!!
Ultimately, though, everyone had a blast and fair was successful again this year.
While we weren’t there for awards, I am still so proud of both my girls who both got reserve champion in showmanship (second place), Emma for Intermediate showmanship and Cecilee for Junior showmanship! This is no mean feat considering this is Emma’s second year and Cecilee’s first year showing diary goats. Chrysanthemum won Champion Mixed-breed doe and second best doe in the whole show out of all the breeds. Penelope took first in her age group and breed. All my girls performed so well!
Wyatt got 5th place in showmanship out of about 30 kids, and one of his wethers took first place in his weight class.
So what were our take aways?
Emma brought a chicken to fair. We learned we need to separate our fair chickens from the roosters at least 3 months in advance. Poor Grace was missing the vast majority of her feathers on her back. Even though we fluffed and buffed her the day before, gave her a bath and toenail trim, and tried to make her look pretty, she was still a sad looking chicken. That being said, Emma was SO PROUD of her! She was so sweet showing off her chicken, getting her out for fair visitors to pet and taking great care of her. Emma LOVES her chickens and it definitely showed.
In the dairy goat department, Emma had 2 dairy goats and Cecilee had 1. Last year all our goats were dry. This year we showed 3 in milk. This was a huge difference! Not only were the prepping and showing requirements stricter, we had to be at the fairgrounds for 13 hours to catch morning and evening milking. This made for long days, but we learned a ton about showing and setting up goats, and I could see an improvement in my girls from the beginning to the end of fair in their knowledge and skills.
I forced Wyatt to do meat goats this year. Yes, I am that mom. His project started in March and while I did a lot of the daily feeding, due to their school schedule, I still made him clean the stalls, add the spools and hay bales for them to have something to run and jump on, and build a fence to give them their own separate area. He also had to make sure we changed their feed according to the information he was given depending on their age and weight, and he had to exercise them. Wyatt procrastinated writing his buyer letters and we only got just a couple out at the very last minute. This did not give him good odds of selling his goat for a very high price. Nevertheless, by the day of auction we had made up a flyer for him to hand out to any prospective buyers that came by, and he did a good job of introducing himself, his goats and politely engaging the buyers to ask for support. Because his wether did so well in its weight class, Wyatt was still able to sell him for a good price. I am not sure if that reinforces bad behavior, but I was thankful to the buyers out there supporting kids! It ended up being a very positive experience for him and he is wanting to do it again next year.
Lastly we learned that we need to be stricter about biosecurity within our group. Our 4 H group had the idea to share the herdsmanship duties amongst the kids, which in theory is great. The kids signed up for 2 hour chunks where they had to come through and pick up excess poo out of pens, sweep floors, top off waters and hay, and talk to fairgoers about the goats, answer questions, etc. The practice of this, though, was that all the shovels and wheelbarrows were used on all 6 of the pens within our group. Whether because of this or some other type of contagion in the barn, by the last day all my goats got scours and after we got home they had snot pouring out of noses and a cough. Maple even had a low grade fever. Within 24 hours of being home, all my goats at home had it too. Not the way we wanted to end fair! Next year, I think we need to bring our own cleaning supplies and I need to just rotate my 3 kids through herdsmanship on our own pens.
All in all, fair was a wonderful experience again for everyone. The days were long but enriching. There is something so rewarding about seeing all your kids hard work pay off. Also, I really enjoyed them, and watching them experience new things, spread their wings, and discover who they are. But next year I am going to train like for a marathon the month before fair!