Krislyn Alford sat in a pen at the Northern Gila County fairgrounds with her sheep, Lulu. Today it was dry and Lulu strikingly white and clean, but Friday was a different story ...
“It flooded in here,” said Krislyn. “I had to take her out and put her in the show pen. She’s had to be washed every day.”
The 4-H and FFA students struggled all weekend to keep their animals clean for judging during the Northern Gila County Fair as rain poured down, causing mud to slide through the pen area. Each critter had multiple baths and even experienced a blow dry.
Paco, a champion steer raised by FFA student Amy Korth, mooed and mooed as she blew him dry. Korth kept at it, as did all the other students — doggedly struggling to keep Paco picture perfect.
Krislyn, a perky red-haired girl from Pine, lives on a ranch with her parents who provide stock for the Parada del Sol Rodeo in Scottsdale.
“We have five horses, 13 dogs, one cat, and a tortoise,” said Krislyn.
She decided to pick a sheep as her first animal to raise through the 4-H program because she thought it would be easy.
She admits she was wrong about that assumption.
“It was not so easy. She was hard to feed and because she’s so tall, difficult to move around. Plus, she’s very stubborn,” said Krislyn.
Krislyn hopes to become a veterinarian when she grows up, but for this weekend, she focused on presenting her animal.
The students raise their market animals to learn valuable animal husbandry and business skills.
Cody Thomason learned his Duroc hog, Bruce, was expensive and stinky to raise.
“His food costs $17 per bag! I had to buy a ton of it,” he said.
But Cody also learned a lot.
He demonstrated his knowledge as he patiently answered questions a fair-goer asked as Cody stood in Bruce’s pen.
“Pigs can’t sweat so they lay in the mud and cover themselves to cool off,” he said. He also told the gentleman that pigs eat fruits and vegetables. Cody said he often fed Bruce leftovers from his restaurant doggie bags.
“But, they start tasting funny when you feed them too much of that stuff,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bruce, a beautiful red Duroc hog, snuffled around the floor of the pen rooting for a snack.
On the gate outside Bruce’s pen, Cody proudly displayed the purple reserve and blue ribbon he won for his hog’s quality and his own showmanship ability.
When asked, Cody easily related the details of the upcoming auction.
“You write a story they announce as they show your animal and the bidders pay a per-pound price. If I get $3.35 per pound for Bruce, I’ll break even,” he said.
He and the other students kept every receipt for every purchase made for their animals.
Cody said the fair has been OK, but this year the judging was a bit challenging because the original judge had to back out.
“We prepared our animals according to how the first judge wanted us to prepare them, now the second judge wanted something different,” said Cody.
Part of the training for the 4-H and FFA students includes learning how to show their animals. Some judges prefer animals to have their coats shaved and clipped; others prefer a more natural look.
Cody did a good job, receiving a blue ribbon for the market quality of Bruce.
Krislyn’s Lulu also did well, but she does not plan on auctioning off the sheep.
“A friend of my grandmother’s will take her. We plan on using her wool and breeding her,” she said.
As with most of the other animals the 4-H and FFA students raised, Lulu hated it when Krislyn left her alone. Krislyn said she would “scream.”
“It’s like a high-pitched baa-baa,” she said. Krislyn would have to climb into Lulu’s pen and give her attention to get her to stop.
For now at the fair, Lulu is in heaven, said Krislyn.
“She’s got lots of animals around her and she loves the attention I give her,” she said.
As Krislyn talked, Lulu wagged her tail, just like a dog, as her owner scratched her on her favorite spot — on her chest between her two front legs.