Monday, July 20, 2009

Marion County Fair 2009

It is county fair season here in Iowa (and probably around many parts of the country), so that means it is time for kids all over to throw on their farm clothes and spend a few days showing their livestock and hanging out in the barns. I love this time of year because I think it really does cause the kids involved to slow down a little and really enjoy life without all the cultural stimulation, but I have a feeling that the 4-H shows of today are quite a bit different than there were 50 years ago and it does cause me to think a little.

This morning I spent some time at the breeding ewe show and watched kids of all ages show their sheep and take home their ribbons and trophies. There was an interesting comment from the judge that did cause me to think a little about the world of showing livestock and what we have to look forward to with our children (because 4-H is probably in their future if they want). As he was judging a class of eight ewes he said something along these lines,
"My son is big into the club lamb world and if he were here right now he would be scratching his head at the order I have them lined up. But, I'm a farmer and our lambs need to make us money so I like this first ewe because she looks like she is ready to go to the pasture with the ram."
I am actually glad that he said that because in my mind that is what 4-H should all be about ... kids showing animals that are and will be productive on their farms or on a nearby farm. But, I think there is a growing push to buy in livestock that will help bring the prizes instead of producing good stock on the farm. I hope there are judges like that when our kids are showing.

So, do any of you have any experience in 4-H or the livestock showing world? Like most of the farming world it is pretty foreign to me, but I'm interested in learning more!


Blessed Beyond Measure said...

Oh 4-H is lots of fun! And like you were saying you do learn a lot! One nice thing since you didn't get to do it as a can live it through your kids!

sugarcreekfarm said...

Our daughter shows pigs for 4-H, knowing full well she won't even be in the running for a top prize because we don't feed the palene-laced showpig feed. Actually we gave her the choice this year, of using that feed or not. She chose not to, because if she feeds them all natural she can sell her extra's to our customers and actually make money. I judge 4-H record books, so I know that the kids using that feed lose money on their projects even when hog prices are decent.

For her it's all about the fun of having pigs at the fair, having fun in the hog barn, getting your friends to help you wash them and show them, etc. I just wish they gave prizes for profitability, too!

Lanny said...

My husband and I were heavily involved in 4-H for years (our oldest is twenty-seven now) Our daughters began in dairy goats but quickly moved to sheep when they noticed that their dad was watching the sheep shows instead of them.

The judge's words you cite are very true, the club lamb project (what is refered to as market lamb project in this area)and market hog was something we steered clear of because it just seemed bizarre and not actually real farming. The market livestock kids seemed that their learning was twenty percent growing the animal and eighty percent in collecting donations that went to purchase the animal at rediculous prices. And as Sugar Creek stated the feeding program was never really reasonable or profitable in reality.

But there was a glimmer of that in the regular sheep show ring also, especially in the down breeds like Suffolk which is what our girls mostly showed. The trend was toward tall. The word for most judges was "transit judge" because unless there was something obvious like a sagging top line, the ewes, rams and lambs were all placed in order of height.

Our most productive ewes never went to fair. Not because we were afaid of losing their productivity but because they would have placed poorly. Our girls were mildly competative (so was dad) and type class did effect showmanship class in that the showman with the tallest ewes usually were farther ahead than just their showmanship skills would have them. We noticed this in all the fairs and shows even the ones we were just visiting.

For the sake of 4-H we began to bring in to our farm the type of animal that did well in the show ring. We still have a few residual problematic animals from our 4-H years and I look forward to the day when we no longer have strong residuals from those genetics.

All that said, my older girls learned alot about speaking to the public, giving instuctional talks, writing resumes. They probably learned detailed livestock and poulty language that we would never have gotten to at home.

My youngest two have been in 4-H off and on since the older two married. They mostly do poultry and as a family we provide a display of turkeys and quail for the State Fair's Animals of the World barn. Which sounds like a lot but is one tenth the involvement we used to have in 4-H and fairs which took a toll on the farm that we started this whole 4-H thing for.

The sheep stay home and do what they are supposed to do.

By the way, I've enjoyed what I've read so far of your blog, which started off with a piece you did on A. Nation in 2007 and then went to your current posts. Looking forward to going back and reading more.

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