One of the most iconic activities that 4-Hers take part in every year is raising livestock to show and then sell at auction.

On Thursday, June 27, judges looked over animals of all description during the competition. We spoke to some of the winners from this year’s market lamb segment about what it takes to raise a lamb that can win its class.

Pick the lamb carefully.

Raising a champion requires starting with a good base. Abagail Ferguson, who was grand champion in the heavyweight market lamb class and the overall market lamb grand champion, picked hers out during a club sale, and she bought with showing the lamb in mind. Haley Cowan, who was the grand champion in the middleweight market lamb class, the overall market lamb reserve champion and the grand champion for senior showmanship of lambs, actually bred her own lambs this year for the first time. She had ewes she thought would breed good lambs and picked a ram to match that.

Diet and exercise make a healthy lamb — just like for people.

Ferguson fed her lamb a half-bag of show chow every day, and changed the water twice a day. Dale Kjorstad, who was grand champion in the lightweight market lamb class, said for the last nine years, he’s used Show-Rite feed.

“Make sure as you feed them, they’re not getting too chunky or too much fat on the ribs,” Kjorstad said.

Cowan explained that having a lamb gain weight is a balancing act. That weight needs to be muscle, so exercise is key. At first, that meant walks of up to a mile. As the show drew closer, though, it meant short sprints.

It takes a tremendous amount of work.

Preparing a lamb for showing requires not just feeding, but also training. Kjorstad said the goal is to have the lamb do what you want it to and have it be led without a halter.

Because Cowan started by breeding instead of buying a lamb, her work started by the time the lambs were five days old. That’s when she started giving them feed. They were weaned once they reached three months.

That required days that started around 5:30 a.m. and didn’t end until about 10 p.m.

“It’s lots of work,” Cowan said.

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