The Moffat County Fair is two months back on the calendar, but for the serious young showmen, it's time to enter the ring again.
Two local youths are headed to a national show-- the American Royal Stock Show in Kansas City, Mo. -- next weekend. It's where state fair winners go to see how they can do, competing at the next level.
Karissa Maneotis, an eighth-grader at Craig Middle School, knows how to get her lambs ready for the show.
"About 6 o'clock each night, we walk down the road and then I run them back up," Maneotis said. "I feed them a textured feed. It's different grains mixed together. It's medicated with minerals in it."
The animals that are raised for the national shows are usually different than those for the county fair, because of the time differences between the shows. The timing must be right for animals to be at the proper weight for each show.
As for attending a national show, Maneotis is excited about the prospect.
"It's like top notch," she said. "People at nationals come from all 50 states to show."
Maneotis has been in 4-H livestock programs for six years, and says she has been around animals as long as she can remember.
"There's been lambs and goats around here since my parents got married," she said. "It's a part of my life."
At the Moffat County Fair, Maneotis has done well.
"I've gotten grand champion lamb, and grand and reserve champion goat," she said.
"I haven't made the sale at a national show yet."
Maneotis enjoys showing livestock partly because of the people she meets.
"I've got friends in Routt County, on the Eastern Slope, all over Colorado," she said. "You meet a lot of people with the same interests."
In addition to her lambs, Maneotis has goats that will accompany her to Kansas City as well.
She prefers goats over lambs because they have more personality, she said.
Her two Boer-cross goats that are ready to show at the American Royal are named "Little Guy" and "Mamba Jamba."
The commitment for raising show animals is a long process that began with obtaining the young baby animals in March or April.
Maneotis gets up each morning at 6 a.m. to feed the animals and to make sure they are doing all right.
Her lambs and goats eat the same grain, and feedings are twice a day. It's near dark in the fall months when she returns to the barn after walking the lambs.
She works out her lambs and goats on the treadmill, and monitors their diets closely as the shows approach.
"When I start out, they get all the feed they want," she said. "Closer to the show, I give them measured amounts. It depends on how much finish (fat) they have."
Maneotis and her parents, Karen and Nick, leave Wednesday for the show in Kansas City. They will not be the only representatives from Craig to attend the American Royal show.
Emily Hepworth and her parents, Kelly and Sarah, are heading to Kansas City for the first time.
She placed fourth overall at the Moffat County Fair, and did well at state, where she took four third places, two fourth places and a fifth place.
"There were 500 lambs at state," Hepworth said. "Only 35 of them make it to the sale, and I sold one this year."
She also took sixth place in showmanship out of 60 competitors.
The 16-year-old junior at Moffat County High School is excited about attending the American Royal Stock Show.
It was her good showings at state in Pueblo that convinced her to go to a national show.
Hepworth has been working a lot with her lambs in past weeks. She wants them to be comfortable in the ring, she said.
She monitors the weights of the animals closely as the shows approach.
Hepworth feeds a grower's mix to the 11 lambs she raised this year. It's a High Noon feed that is made specifically for animals that are raised for showing.
If her lamb gets too skinny, she adds more corn to the diet, and if too heavy, she adds protein to the mix.
The lambs eat about three pounds of feed in their twice-daily feedings, she said. They get some hay at night.
Both of the girls agree that the hardest part of raising animals for show is the commitment involved, and the parting of ways at the sale.
"As you near showtime, you have to work them every day," Hepworth said. "You have to set time out to give them attention."
Maneotis also had made sacrifices for her animals.
"Sometimes you can't go with your friends because you have prior commitments," Maneotis said. "It's always sad when you sell them at a show, especially these ones because I've had them all year. There's always tears."
National shows run from August until the spring, when the whole process begins anew.
After Kansas City, the girls will have to decide between a show in Phoenix the day after Christmas and the National Western Stock Show in January in Denver.
Any money made at a sale goes back into the feed bills, or into next year's goats and lambs, the girls said. The college fund always needs feeding as well.