Spring signals Moffat County Fair is nearing for 4-H
April 11, 2014
Mandatory weigh/tag date for goats and lambs: May 7
Mandatory tag date for pigs: May 8
Fair dates: Aug. 3 through 9
The Moffat County Fair may not take place until August, but for 4-H youths hoping to be Grand Champion in 2014, April is as important for their plans as the summer months.
Regardless of the species a 4-H kid is showing, the workload increases as spring hits.
"Most of the projects get going in the spring," said Kelly Hepworth, fair board president and member of the livestock committee for 2014. "Certainly there are some of the livestock kids who are going before that, but officially things really don't get rolling until around now. It’s an exciting time for everybody."
The spring is a big time for the 4-H members showing livestock at the Moffat County Fair this year. The kids already are hard at work preparing their animals for August.
Brice White, 18, is in her last year of participation in the Moffat County Fair. She'll show several species this year, including steers. White has been working with her steers since October, including brushing their hair daily, washing them every weekend and working on the steers' stance.
"You have to do a lot of work with their hair," White said. "It gets all brown, that's old hair. So you brush it out and they can grow more. You want to get the hair all leaning forward (toward the steer's head) and we put Cleen Sheen on it. That's basically like a conditioner for their hair. I didn't do Cleen Sheen as much in the winter because it would freeze, but I'll use it every day now."
Preparing a steer to show also involves training them to stand in the best possible way. Using a rod with a hook, White brings her steers' legs into the proper positioning with the goal of that becoming their natural stance by the time the fair arrives.
Katia and Peyton Voloshin have shown steers every year since they were old enough to participate in the fair — they are in their eighth and fourth years, respectively — and do many of the same things in prepping their steers. They said making sure to spend time with the animal is as important as anything.
"It gets them used to you and used to people," Katia said. "That way they aren't scared of the judge and all the people in the showroom."
Luckily, some of the work that needs to be done for showing them also serves as a way to get on the steers' good side.
"Just combing them, they really like it," Katia said. "They'll think you're nice and get more comfortable around you."
Developing a good relationship with one's animals is a key to presenting them well. That's one of the major early goals with goats, lamb and pigs, which at most households have just recently arrived.
Pepper Rhyne, 9, is in his second year showing pigs in the fair and still is getting to know his pigs, Lucky and Charlie, after receiving them a few weeks ago. In the initial weeks after their arrival, pigs are allowed to eat as much as they want to help them grow quickly — they start out about 20 pounds and grow to near 300 pounds by August.
"For the first month, it's free feed, they can eat all they want," Rhyne said. "When they get older, you manage their feed more by keeping track of how much they've grown. If they've grown too much, you cut back on it and give them filler feed."
Feed makes up a majority of the pigs' diet, but Rhyne and White have found their new friends crave marshmallows as well.
Eventually, the 4-H kids will start working on fair-specific things with their pigs, like walking around and directing them, but for now, it's about developing a level of comfort between owner and animal.
"I think it's more fun when they're grown because you get to spend more time with them," Rhyne said. "You work with them so hard that you get attached to them."
The same goes for those showing lambs in August as well. They are new members in the barn come springtime and need time to get comfortable and grow.
Lambs enjoy eating just as much as pigs but can't be allowed to chow down all the time, Peyton Voloshin said.
"They like to eat a lot, but you have to hold them back," she said, adding that she'll get her lambs in the next couple weeks. "You have to walk them around to get muscle, wash them, and you can't let them gain too much weight. They can get a hay-belly then."
White said the sheep typically take a bit longer to become friendly in her experience, but feeding them a bottle is always a good way to get on their good side.
Rhyne and the Voloshins will show horses as well, which doesn't take the same kind of relationship-building because most have known their horses for years, but it still requires significant work through the spring and summer.
"Once spring comes, you are spending more time with the animals and it's fun," Peyton said. "You can't slack, you have to be doing the work."
That theme of hard work being fun is common among the 4-H youth in Moffat County. Despite more than a decade of experience, White still gets emotional when her animals are sold each year, she said. Rhyne is just getting used to that feeling, but he loves going along for the ride.
"It's a lot of fun to get to know the animal, become friends," he said.
Contact Nate Waggenspack at 970-875-1795 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CDP_Sports .