Contributed photo

Author Rachel Olver poses with one of her lambs.

What are those 4-H barns all about?

Have you ever been to the Wayne County Fair and wandered through the animal barns and wondered what the 4-H barns are all about? My name is Rachel Olver, and I am a sophomore at Honesdale High School and a member of the Calkins Agricultural 4-H club. I have been a member of the 4-H program for six years, and for the last three years I have been raising market lambs.

Last fall I got started on this year’s project when I decided to breed my own sheep. Breeding took place in September, and I took care of the ewes all winter long, making sure they were fed, watered and had clean pens, until the lambs arrived in February.

I also carefully chose and purchased lambs from another breeder in the spring. As soon as possible I began to handle the babies. Each day I would hold, pet and care for them. In this way they would become familiar with me, the touch of humans, and be more likely to cooperate in the show ring at the fair.

Every day I travel to our barn to care for and work with the sheep. They need fresh water daily, proper nutrition, and clean pens to remain healthy and grow to their full potential. I exercise my sheep twice everyday so they gain muscle for the market show. In the market show, the judge is looking for a lamb that has a good balance of both muscle and cover.

Lambs also enter the showmanship ring for judging. In this class, the judge is looking for the best-fitted sheep. Lambs should be washed and sheared, keeping a thin layer of wool close to the body. If the lamb has a lot of leg wool (shag), then you must blow-dry and trim this as well.

The judge also looks for a person who controls and sets up the animal into a bracing position, which allows the lamb to be presented in its best form. I work with them every day, so they perform to the best of their ability. This year I decided to do some jackpot shows to help my lambs, and I prepare and practice for the fair, in both showmanship and market classes.

I have worked enough with my lambs that I am able to take them on walks without using any halter. I’ve formed a strong bond with my animals, which makes selling them the hardest part of the entire project. I enjoy spending time with these animals, despite the hard work that is required. Feel free to stop by to see the animals we raise at the fair!


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