By Ashley Treadwell
Six years ago I joined the White Hall 4-H club, knowing very little about 4-H or the agricultural industry. My reason for joining 4-H was to show sheep. My mom and I were thinking about getting sheep and thought that this was the right step toward achieving that goal. I joined in September and soon learned about the Lamb Grant program. This program was for 4-Hers who did not have enough land to house a lamb themselves or for those who did not know anything about taking care of a lamb. I qualified for the latter. I learned so much during those four months about how to take care of a lamb, how to show a lamb as well as what lambs (and sheep) eat. I also made many new friends who I still keep in touch with today. I enjoyed the program so much that I continued with it for the next four years until the program ended this past year. This year, I will be leasing two lambs from Mr. and Mrs. Greene’s farm so that I may show at the Baltimore County Fair one last time before I leave for college.
Sheep need to be handled with a lot of care and patience. If you give up on them, they will never become halter broken. They must be sheared twice before the county fair as well as washed twice. Washing sheep in itself is a patience builder. Once I obtained the patience needed to take care of a lamb, it stayed with me. I took that patience and formed it into explanations that helped those in the program younger than me make sense of all that was taking place. Taking care of another living thing takes a lot of work. You have to put a lot of effort into it, but I guarantee that you will be able to see the end results. Practice makes perfect. I did not do too well my first year showing but I learned from my mistakes and now consider myself a very good sheep shower. Once I understood how to take care of a lamb and knew what was expected of me, I was able to more successfully complete the project because I was not a novice anymore and could perform tasks with more efficiency and skill than in previous years.
As a 4-H member, Lamb Grant and sheep showing has helped me understand the agricultural industry better and has allowed me to meet new people and expose myself to new opportunities within the ag industry. Sheep showing has impacted my life tremendously. All of my friends know that I show sheep because I have been doing it for so long and talk about it so much. Over the years, people have come up to me asking me questions about sheep: how to show them, how to take care of them, and just general questions about the agricultural industry. My project has also helped me at the annual state skill a thon competition, so much that I received 18th place at the 2014 competition. I also was a livestock judge for 4-H and FFA and having a sheep background has been a good basis for judging, not only for sheep but also for cattle and goats.
My sheep project encouraged me to run for Sheep and Wool Queen and, although I did not win, it was a great experience that I will never forget. In turn, running for Sheep and Wool Queen exposed me to other royalty competitions in which I ran for Miss Baltimore County Farm Bureau this past year and received first runner up. All of these competitions help to practice my public speaking skills as well as have helped me grow and expand on my ag knowledge. Agriculture has become a huge part of my life and will continue to be apart of my life when I go off to college at Iowa State University. Once I’m there I am sure that the topic of showing animals will be discussed and I will be able to partake in that conversation. I might be able to get a job helping at their farm because of my ag/sheep background. My lamb project has been a huge help already in shaping the person I am today and I am sure it will affect me in the future just as positively.