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Experiencing the expo

Livestock training for 4-H members

Dan Olsen
Fifteen-year-old Staci Baker trains with her American Staffordshire Terrier, "Buster," at the Dog Leaders Training session during the 2007 4-H Northwest Colorado Expo.
Dan Olsen

— Jakota Straw, of Garfield County, confidently answered the horse questions thrown at her by Jenny Wood, the Eagle County Colorado State University extension agent.

“What is the gullet on a saddle?” Wood asked. “Where is the croup on your horse?”

Straw nailed most of the answers at the 2007 4-H Northwest Colorado Expo on Wednesday.

She was one of 140 4-H youths attending the expo at the Moffat County Fairgrounds on Tuesday through Thursday.

A group of experts – in fields ranging from feeding poultry to grooming steers – conducted lectures and provided hands-on training for youths, who are preparing their animals for upcoming county fairs across Northwest Colorado.

Eagle teens and children mixed with Routt County 4-H members as CSU and other extension agents shared their years of knowledge.

“You want to check the feed you’re giving your animals,” said Steve Schafer, University of Wyoming extension specialist. “Look for dust on the bag in the store and the expiration date. Make sure it’s a quality product with the nutrition your rabbit or chicken needs.”

Schafer covered the necessity of cool and clean water for animals, as well as checking the skeletal structure of the animal before purchasing it. Those tidbits and other animal raising tips were all part of his morning lecture.

“If you are raising chickens for eggs, they need feed high in calcium, as opposed to meat chickens that should be fed a diet high in protein,” he said. “Younger rabbits also need a high protein diet as they grow.”

Schafer expressed the importance of straight feet and a good structure on the rabbits and chickens when selecting animals for showing at the fair. Continuously cleaning the cages and attending to the rabbits and poultry increases the chances of bringing up healthy show animals.

Nine-year-old Colton Bomgardner, of Silt, sat horseback after attempting to cut a calf out of a herd.

“They tell you which calf to get, like the spotted one, or the one with a brand on his butt,” he said. “You pull him out and try to keep him away form the others.”

This was Bomgardner’s first year at the Expo, and he and his mount, Beauty, were kicking up dust during the riding portion of the instruction.

Shelby Massie, of Eagle, was facing a barrage of questions about her horse’s conformation and worming the animal. The 14-year-old admitted her horse C.G. (for Cover Girl) needed some “filling out” in her legs. The worming, she said, she’ll leave to the vet.

Under the grandstands, Routt County CSU extension agent C.J. Mucklow was shifting his lecture from branding sheep to notching the ears on hogs for identification. Each notch represents a number, he told the young crowd, which can trace the animal back to its herd and litter number.

“Ear tags are nice because they can be seen a long way off,” he said. “But ear tags come off, so we tattoo the animals with a permanent mark.”

Pigs, lambs and steers are all tattooed, Mucklow said. Electronic chips implanted in animals are becoming very popular, with all the steers in Routt County being so marked.

Out in the grass next to the pavilion, a different animal is center stage.

Shannon Ragan is in the sub-novice class in the dog leaders training section of the expo. She entered the sport because a friend was involved in 4-H and it looked like fun.

Ragan has been playing with her dog Beau in preparation of Wednesday’s training, and she thinks Beau will do well because he plays well and likes to get baths.

She said she is not sure what to expect, because it’s her first time attending an expo.

Eleven-year-old Kate Cooper of Meeker is in her second year of 4-H expos, and she said she did well last year.

“My sister and I are both showing lambs this year,” she said. “My little sister is too young to participate, but she has a bum-lamb here today to learn with.”

Cooper said a lot of work is involved in raising sheep, and there are hard parts in addition to the daily feeding and walking.

“It’s tough getting them halter broke in the beginning,” she said. “Ours are market lambs, so it’s also hard when you have to let them go in the end.”

Cooper feels comfortable showing her lambs, in part due to all she has learned at the expo.

Like Cooper, Straw also walks with an air of confidence after finishing her written test on horses. She knew the gullet is the hole in the saddle below the horn, and she was familiar with the term croup to describe the part of her horse back on the rump.

Straw had a little difficulty with diseases afflicting horses, but that’s part of why she came to the expo. To learn all she can before the fair comes around in the fall.


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