4-H Kids raise livestock for show and auction

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For many fairgoers, the fair is just one week in August designated for fun rides and fair food, but for the kids showing livestock it is the culmination of months or even years of hard work. 

“There’s only two seasons at our house — there’s Christmas and there’s the fair,” Christina Losie said.

Christina’s daughters, Madison, 10, and Cadence, 16 of Davenport, both show animals at the fair including chickens, horses, dairy cows, dairy goats, rabbits and pigs. 

“Basically in the summer, the Walton fair is my home,” Madison said. 

Madison first started showing animals at age three while riding horses and has since expanded to other animals. Madison said that despite the hard work, she enjoys spending time with the animals and with her 4-H friends.

Youth participating in 4-H can enter in a variety of animal exhibits like dairy cattle, beef cattle, dairy goats, meat goats, sheep, swine, horses, poultry, rabbits, cavy (guinea pigs) and dogs. 

Judging criteria vary greatly in these shows depending on the animal and the class, but across all exhibits a well-kept and well-behaved animal is essential to success. These two factors do not happen overnight; Madison said it took her a year of training her dairy goat Maize to get her to walk well on a leadline. She said she starts this process without a halter or rope and first practices getting the goat to follow her by turning their head. 

Meat goats require different care and show preparation than the dairy goats, 12-year-old Ashley Madugno from Deposit said. 

Ashley has been showing meat goats since she was seven years old, as well as pigs and occasionally, cows. Care for these goats includes feeding twice per day, bathing them once a week, trimming their feet once a week and daily walks. One training trick she does with her young goat, Fez, is to tie him to a fence for five minutes before his walk to train him to keep his head up. 

Preparation for a show means clipping the meat goats’ coat, trimming their feet and making sure their coat is clean and shining. 

“You don’t shave (their legs) and you puff it up before you go in the show ring to make it look like they have really big legs,” Ashley said. “And then you also leave their tail with a little poof on it.”

Other animals, like chickens, have different requirements. 

Ella Gerster, 15, from Davenport, shows several animals but especially loves to show chickens. She is a member of Future’s Finest 4-H club along with Madison and Cadence Losie. Gerster said to prepare for shows, she washes her chickens with baby shampoo and fabric softener, blow dries them, trims their breaks and clips their toenails. 

Gerster enjoys showing chickens so much that she has even organized an extra challenge for the 4-H poultry showmen which tests their knowledge of chicken breeds and anatomy. After being exposed to more advanced poultry showmanship at other poultry shows, Gerster decided to give other 4-H poultry showmen a similar challenge. She put together a four-page packet which includes an anatomical diagram for people to fill in, a section to fill in information about a specific breed and a breed identification portion. 

Animals are generally cared for and trained by the kids, although many also receive help from their parents.

For many kids showing livestock, the hobby is a family tradition with older siblings, parents and grandparents having participated as children.

“When I’m here I take care of them, but normally when I’m at school my mom takes care of them,” nine-year-old Addy Olsen from Bloomville, said. 

Addy lives 20 minutes from the property where her cows and goats are kept, but her mom, Jackie, takes her to the farm to help with chores and to practice with the animals when she can. Addy began showing cattle when she was about two years old and now shows dairy cattle, dairy goats and meat goats. She has received a lot of help from her mother who has also shown cows and was in the ring with Addy for her 4-H Cloverbuds debut. 

For some kids, this guidance comes from older 4-H members like Ashley’s older sister, Autumn Madugno. 

“She’s back here doing whatever she’s working on and she’ll have six to eight kids around her asking her questions,” said Amanda Madugno, Autumn and Ashley’s mother. “She likes letting them know what to do, and she’s a good role model because she’s serious about what she does.”

Autumn has been showing cows since she was eight years old, and she now owns and shows 11 cows representing seven dairy breeds. She said that along with helping and socializing with other people at the shows, she enjoys having something to work toward.

“It’s something I look forward to, it’s having a project and just having something to grow on every year,” Autumn said.

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