By Kathi Bliss
Across Caldwell County this week, youngsters are shearing lambs, weighing hogs, and counting their chickens, well after they have hatched.
It’s time for the Caldwell County Junior Livestock Show and Sale, and this year, 127 youth are preparing 287 animal projects for this weekend’s show. Nearly half of those students are preparing more than one project, some working on as many as three and four animal entries.
In the Dailey family, of Neiderwald, each of three siblings are preparing multiple projects, putting themselves in direct competition with one another when they hit the show ring on Friday afternoon.
Eldest sibling and seasoned exhibitor, Mikayla, 13, has raised three lambs for the show, and is also working with her younger brother Weston, 10, on a pen of broilers.
Having raised Grand Champion broiler pens in 2011 and 2013, Mikayla won’t get to choose the best of the best out of their flock of 41 broilers, though.
“Dad’s going to make that choice for us,” she said, explaining that, while the siblings help one another when it comes to preparing for the show, all bets are off when they get to the ring.
“I decided that I wanted to start doing lambs last year, because I wanted to do something that was more of a challenge than the broilers,” she said. “And the lambs… they’re a challenge.”
Each of the Dailey family’s seven lambs has a distinct personality, Weston said, and they all react to their handlers in different ways.
“You have to work with them a lot and get them to trust you, to make them do what you want them to do,” he said.
The youngest Dailey sibling, Edwin, 9, will take his first turn in the show ring this year, as he shows two lambs and a pen of market rabbits.
“I wanted to raise the rabbits because I just like rabbits,” he said as he fed two animals in what he called the “diet pen.” He wasn’t sure about raising lambs, but was pulled into the family’s friendly competition anyway. Weston’s four rabbits were in a separate pen, dozing comfortably while they waited for him to bring them out to work them.
Like the lambs they raise, the three Dailey children have distinct personalities, as well: Mikayla, the “elder statesman,” friendly and focused, Edwin, reserved and shy, and Weston, excited and gregarious.
“I wanted to do multiple projects because that’s the best way to make money,” he said bluntly. “It’s the best way to get money for college, and to work toward scholarships.”
The money they make on the show each year is reinvested into the next year’s projects, according to mom Jeanine, who said when they began buying their show animals and equipment, Mikayla was tempted to go overboard before she remembered how much money was in her account.
Although Mikayla has also participated the Project Fair in the past, she decided against it this year.
”I just don’t have the time this year,” she said.
Understandably. Despite the cold weather this winter, the Dailey children are up at dawn to feed and water their animals before school, and are often in the pasture until sundown, walking their lambs, exercising their broilers and “setting” their rabbits.
“We try to keep them apart while they’re working, because sometimes, big sister wants to ‘help,’ and little brothers don’t really want ‘help,’” Jeanine said. “So one will be in the back, and another will be up front, and the other is in the rabbit pen.”
Only child Abbe Rougeou, 13, doesn’t have that problem. In fact, in addition to her school work and sports, she is raising hogs and lambs on her own, with only the help of her parents.
“There’s no way I could do it all by myself!” said the longtime exhibitor, who also participates in extracurricular sports at Lockhart Junior High, and club volleyball on the weekends.
Twice a week, she walks her hogs for half an hour and spends about 20 minutes working with her lambs, teaching them to “set” and walk with her. Instead of taking the easy way out and showing less time-intensive animals like rabbits or broilers, Abbe embraced the challenge of multiple projects.
“I love animals, so I want to show as many as my parents will let me,” she said.
In the past, she has raised rabbits and hogs, and this is her second year to show hogs and lambs.
“I’ve always loved pigs, but I wanted to show an animal that I can lead around and put my hands on,” she said. “You can’t do that with a pig.”
She will be showing two hogs and two lambs, and calls this year’s projects “double the work,” but she said she’s ready for the challenge.
The Caldwell County Junior Livestock Show and Sale begins at the Caldwell County Show Barn on Reed Drive on Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. The schedule is as follows:
1 p.m. Broilers, with Turkeys immediately following;
2 p.m. (or later): Market Rabbits, with Breeding Rabbits immediately following.
4 p.m. (or later): Short Term Rabbits
5 p.m. (or later): Market Lambs, with Ewes, Goats and Breeding Goats following.
8 a.m.: Market Hogs, with Breeding Gilts immediately following.
10 a.m. (or later): Steers, with Breeding Beef and Overall Showmanship immediately following.
2 p.m (or later): Pet Show.