Kids learn life lessons raising livestock for fair
Pallavi Agarwal | Highlands TodaySEBRING - Nine-year-old Kash Waldron's Snowflake may be about 10 times bigger than him, but make no mistake.
Published: February 14, 2013
Published: February 14, 2013
The solid white heifer with a fuzzy coat is really like an overgrown, gentle pet.
Heifers have a lot of attributes, so which of Snowflake's does Kash like the most?
"She's easy to handle," shared the little boy without hesitation.
His dad, Keatley Waldron, agreed.
Tuesday, the two had just finished hosing her down outside the Highlands County Fairgrounds' barn and were helping her stretch her legs.
Wednesday evening was the big day when Kash got to lead Snowflake around a show ring and let judges decide if she had the right structure and who of the two was the real boss.
The 9-year-old is one of many kids showing their livestock projects at the Highlands County Fair and Livestock Show, an endeavor parents and school advisors describe as involved and expensive but rewarding.
The kids have to feed the animals, bathe them, learn how to handle them right, maintain a record book or get disqualified the next year and send out support letters to prospective buyers.
That means getting up in the morning, being diligent, and long hours – sometimes for the parents, too.
"It's a good life lesson," said Keatley Waldron, a local chiropractor, as he joked how he's had to "adjust" his work hours to help out his sons.
Some students, such as Avon Park High School 11th grader Shelby Luke, also take out loans to help them buy and raise their animals.
It helps them build their credit and teaches them money management, said Rebekah Wills, Sebring High School's agriculture teacher and FFA advisor.
Students can show one market animal, such as a steer, and one non-market critter, such as a heifer, which does not end up at the slaughter house, she said. Two of her students are showing both a steer and a heifer.
Many first-timers also show hogs, which at 100 entries, was the most popular livestock at the show, along with 45 steers and heifers, 30 poultry and 80 rabbits.
"They are more manageable," Wills explained. While steers and heifers have to tended to from August to February, hog projects start at the end of October.
One of those hog lovers is Avon Park Middle School sixth-grader Bo Deen, and he's getting better at showing them every year.
This year, Bo's third pig, the 262-pound Hogister, placed first in her weight class and was the reserve grand champion.
Showing hogs the last three years means that Bo has squirreled away some money for college, which is one of goals of the livestock show.
Wills explained that this year the livestock show committee has been trying to explain to the community that bidders don't have to take home the animal they win at the auction, which is set Thursday.
They have the choice of selling them back to the slaughter house at rail price and can also get back some of the money they commit during the auction.
While raising college funds through auctions is the goal of some students, others keep their livestock projects as pets.
Seventh-grader Joshua Orr's rabbit Gucci, this year's grand champion, is going home with him and may come back next year as his entry again.
Orr, who is showing animals for the first time, may have got a beloved pet out of the deal but he also likes the feeling of winning, he grinned.
Another first-timer Jalynn Gonzales was brushing her rabbit Stache for the upcoming Pee Wee show as the bunny demurely sat on her lap while mom and dad helped the little girl.
"He was given to us," said mother, Amber.
When they got the rabbit, they decided to put their daughter in the 4-H Club and enter Stache in the livestock show.
If this has been a learning experience for the 7-year-old, she's not alone. Her parents, who are not livestock show veterans, have been helping Jalynn and learning a bit about raising animals, too.
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