By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
ALEXANDRIA, Ind. —
The bleating of sheep echoed through the barns at the Madison County 4-H Fair Tuesday afternoon.
Owners and breeders spent the day shearing, washing and carding their animals in preparation for the Sheep Show Wednesday. The animals might not have enjoyed the grooming, but it’s all a necessity to make them as attractive as possible to judges and prospective livestock purchasers at the imminent show.
Today, more than 150 sheep from across the county will be judged on a variety of categories including appearance, health and muscle leanness.
For many of the young owners whose animals are competing, they’re counting down the final days with the sheep the sheep they’ve raised, at least the males. That’s why Faith Kitts, a sophomore at Madison-Grant High School, refuses to name her sheep, even her favorites.
“I don’t want to get too attached,” Kitts said as she helped her father Kirk shear one of their ewes. “But I’m used to it by now. I’ve been showing livestock since I was 3, and I’ve just seen it as a part of life now. It’s necessary. The livestock we’re raising will be used to feed humans.”
Kitts walked over and started petting her favorite ram, which will be used for lamb chops and other food products after being sold.
“It’s the circle of life,” Kitts said.
Still, Kitts admitted she has cried in the past after losing animals she grew to love. Luckily, she’ll be taking the ewe she was grooming back home. The ewe is still about a year from being able to breed but Kitts has another that will be ready in a few months. And so the cycle will continue.
Kitts spent most of the afternoon preparing her sheep for the next day’s show. Hunter Graybill, 13, of Highland Middle School, was pretty much ready for the show by afternoon, with only a few touch-ups necessary on one of his Shropshire rams.
The Shropshire is an English breed that produces wool, but the wool isn’t very useful since it can’t be used in clothing production. As a result, the sheep is almost exclusively used for food. Graybill said he’s been breeding and participating in shows throughout the Midwest for three years, and is confident about how he’ll do today. He has five siblings also competing in the 4-H Fair, and the family brought a total of 21 animals.
Jenna and Jansen Jarrell, 17 and 18, of Alexandria, also finished their preparations early and headed to the Show Arena to relax and watch other competitions. For the sisters, the competition today will be the culmination of months of hard work to get their sheep ready. They’re ready to be finished for this year.
“We feed them and walk them every day,” Jenna said. “It’s going to be sad to say goodbye, but we’re ready to get it over with.”
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