Getting ready for the show
A day at the spa is usually an enjoyable time for people but according to Julie Thompson, her lambs don't seem to appreciate getting spruced up for show.
Julie, a ninth grade student at Riverside, has become the keeper of the sheep, a project started by her older sister, Micah, who is now in college.
Julie, the daughter of Rusty and Beth Thompson, has gone from one lamb to 19 and is dedicated to their care. She feeds and waters them every morning before going to school and then again in the evenings. Her parents take turns getting up and accompanying her for the morning chores as she cares for her flock. Julie is part of the Riverside FFA organization and the Craighead County 4-H and uses her sheep for projects for both.
Julie is a member of the Craighead County Livestock 4-H Club; the Eastern District Craighead County 4-H,; and a Teen Leader 4-H Club. She has been in 4-H since she was five years old. She has been part of sewing, photography, public speaking and animal science. Julie is also a junior member of Arkansas Breed Lamb, Arkansas Junior Sheep Council, and Arkansas State Sheep Council. Julie won District awards for Animal Science: Sheep Intermediate 4-H record book for the second consecutive year.
The first show of 2013, The Crowley's Ridge Classic, was held last Saturday. Julie took Friday to get her two market wethers ready to show.
The day before a show, Julie gives each one a bath, blow dries their wool (she said it makes the wool cut better if it is slightly damp), and then shears them using a specially designed holding stand and electric clippers. She uses moisturizing lotion on their skin. Julie then trims the hoofs, and is careful to keep them where they will stay clean and ready for show.
"Usually, they are very nervous when we start shearing but once they realize what is going on and it does not hurt, they calm down," Julie said. "Sheep are like humans, they have different personalities and different moods."
For the Crowley's Ridge Classic she gave Tim and Fred, the two wethers going to show, the full treatment. She placed them in coats after shearing and put them in a travel trailer with food and water.
As a rule sheep are sheared once a year but Julie said they shear the sheep before every show.
Julie said she would be glad to give anyone the wool who wants it. It can be washed and dyed like cotton.
There are a lot of guidelines involved in showing sheep as well as other livestock. Julie said sometimes the judges will ask questions about care, feed, and varieities.
"We need to know about our animals," Julie said. "The state fair is very strict. At the state fair, the sheep must be under one year old. We have to have them registered by July. We have to pull hair from their feet and send it in for a DNA test to make sure we bring the one we register."
If a participant registers and is not able to make it to the state fair, no one else can show the sheep.
There are different categories for ages and weights. Ewes can be two to three years old. They can show in commercial after one year but at four years it is commercial market.
Tim, one of the wethers shown last Saturday, came from Iowa on the Schmillen Farm. He is a cross between a Hampshire and a Suffolk. The other one to show is named Fred. He came from Nebraska on the Immink Farm. Julie gets several of her lambs from Wright's Farm (owner's Brad, Suzie, and Sarah Wright) in Springdale.
Dollie is the pet of the flock. She will probably stay but Tim and Fred will be going to market in April after the Buffalo Island Livestock Show.
In addition to the grooming care of her flock, Julie has learned to give the animals their shots, medicine, study to make sure each gets the right amount and kind of feed, and is learning about judging.
"It all goes together," Julie said.
She is looking at attending college at Northeastern Oklahoma because it has a good program for pre-veterinary courses and animal judging.
She plans to attend a show camp in Columbus, Kan., this summer, along with several other shows.
This is Julie's third season. She has learned a lot from not only caring for her animals, but from the budgeting and marketing side. She keeps up with what she spends on each one, the registration of her animals, and will be ready to market a few this year.
For the first year, they have had babies born to their sheep. They had 10 born, six survivors since the first of the year. One, they fed by bottle, is named CB (Cry Baby). CB cost them sleep as he would cry for a bottle every two hours all night. He was the only survivor of triplets born on Jan. 26. A set of twins, born on Valentine's Day, were named Ruby and Max and they are doing well.
One of the babies, born Feb. 2, is named Jumper because he jumps like a deer. P. Jinks was born Jan. 20 and weighed seven pounds and now weighs over 20 pounds.
Through Julie's 4-H opportunities she participates in community service projects. She commended Dr. Copeland of Paragould for his help with the 4-H and giving his time to the young people. She also appreciates Brittney Carwell, 4-H agent with the Craighead County.
Participating in the shows has given Julie the opportunity to make good friends from all over the state. She is looking forward to seeing them at the shows again this year.
She has won showmanship and placed in other shows. Julie's goal is to win the Purple Circle at the State Fair, the Arkansas Bred Lamb, and Buffalo Island Showmanship. She is well on her way to reaching her goals.
Julie has learned a lot but is ready to continue her education in the care, showing, and judging of sheep.
Tim placed second in his class at the Crowley's Ridge Classic, which put him in the championship drive.