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Stories from the valley

Getting Ready for the Fair

Contributed by Dan Macon

Below Dan Macon and his 12-year-old daughter Emma both talk about what they do to get ready for the Gold Country Fair in Auburn. Read both perspectives for a unique outlook on the animal preparation.

Getting Ready for the Fair

By Dan Macon

Since our oldest daughter, Lara, was 9 years old, a portion of every summer has been dedicated to preparations for the Gold Country Fair in Auburn (always the week after Labor Day in September).  When our youngest, Emma, turned 9 six years after Lara’s first fair experience, the preparations doubled.  This year, Lara will be in her first month of college (at Montana State University) during the fair – so we’re back to helping just one kid get ready.  But Emma has jumped in with both feet – she’ll be showing two market lambs, a breeding ewe and a ram – and so we’re as busy as ever getting ready!

In just its 53rd year, the Gold Country Fair in Auburn is younger than some county fairs – but it’s still a traditional event.  Like most of the families whose children show at the fair, we rarely leave the barns to visit other fair attractions (like the carnival rides).  For many kids, the fair is their first (and possibly their only) exposure to production agriculture.  For our girls (having grown up in a ranching family), it’s an opportunity to learn responsibility, marketing, and community activism.  Both girls started with a ranch raised lamb – not competitive in the show ring, but profitable in the sales ring!  Both girls have learned that ethically raising an animal that will be harvested is a challenging and rewarding endeavor.  Both girls have learned that caring for an animal is hard work and a great responsibility.  And both girls have learned how to present themselves and their animals to the larger community.

Fair 1

Emma’s preparations for this year’s fair began nearly a year ago, when she put her ewes with a friend’s ram.  In February, both ewes gave birth – one to twins and the other to a single lamb.  Emma has done all of the work with her sheep this year – from applying ear tags to castrating the male lamb to shearing all three lambs.  In addition, she selected a back-up market lamb from our commercial lamb crop – she wanted to have a contingency plan in case something happened to her lamb.  She also selected a purebred Shropshire ram from our registered flock – and she’s worked on getting him ready for the fair, as well.  She’s up early (at least from a 12-year-old’s perspective) every day to feed her lambs, and she works with them every evening to prepare them for the show ring.  And this week, she’s writing a letter inviting prospective buyers to the junior livestock auction on September 10 – she’ll hand deliver the invitations (in her 4-H uniform) next week.

This year’s fair will be quite different than the last 10 for the Macon Family – for the first time, we’ll be three instead of four.  Even so, we’ll enjoy catching up with friends, watching some of the best and brightest kids in our community in friendly competition.  In the meantime, Emma wants me to help weigh her lambs this afternoon….

Working with my Lambs

By Emma Macon

To get ready for the fair, I must do a lot of things – but there are three main things that I stick to.  First, I feed my lambs right.  Second, I exercise them.  Third, I handle them a lot.  These are the critical things that are necessary to get my lambs ready to show and sell.

To feed my lambs correctly, I have to figure out how big they are going to be.  This allows me to judge how much feed they need to finish at the right weight and with the right amount of fat cover.

To give the person who buys my lamb a good product, I make sure I exercise my lambs during the summer.  Just like us, they stay healthier if they are fit.  The exercise also helps build muscle tone.

Fair 2

Finally, to do well in showmanship, which helps my lamb sell for more in the auction, I practice with my lambs.  My mom and dad pretend that they are the show judge, which helps my lambs get comfortable with somebody handling them.  Practice also helps them get comfortable with walking and stopping – like they’ll have to do in the show.

Feeding my lambs right, exercising them, and handling them often are just three things that I have to do to get ready for the fair.  My goal is to do well in my showmanship and market classes, and to give the person who buys my lamb a great product.  This year, I’m saving up for my 8th grade trip to Washington DC – I hope my lambs do well!