10/04/09 — Lamb wranglers take their charges to county fair ring

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Lamb wranglers take their charges to county fair ring

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 4, 2009 2:00 AM

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Rosewood High School senior Morgan Herring, right, leashes her lamb as her agriculture teacher Allison Jennings looks on during the lamb judging.

Rosewood High School student John Smith was just a bit nervous Saturday as he made his way into the grandstand arena at the Wayne County Fairgrounds.

It wasn't that he was afraid the lamb he was getting ready to show in the lamb show would make a bolt for freedom or just simply refuse to move. Nor was it jitters because it was is first year in the competition.

"My mother was in the audience," he said.

John's lamb behaved, but didn't place and when the show was over he said he had enjoyed it and would be back next year.

John was one of 13 members of the Rosewood High School FFA to compete in the event that attracted 64 contestants and 98 sheep.

"My two brothers (Ben and Will Smith) they did it, and I wanted to try," John said. "It is a lot of hard work, but it is fun to learn how to take care of them, feed them, walk them. They nibble at your clothes a little bit and they pee and poop on you. Other than that it is pretty great."

The team practiced for several months prior to the show, he said.

"My sheep wasn't so good in the beginning, but it has gotten pretty good now, I think. It liked to run. It wouldn't walk much. It would start to walk, but it would try to run. I had to break it from that. I had to learn how to brace it and that was probably the hardest part for me.

"I let go of the halter one time and he ran. I had to chase, grab him and hold him down."

John said his brothers provided pointers.

"They just told me to make eye contact with the judges and always listen to (agriculture teacher) Mrs. (Allison) Jennings.

Mrs. Jennings said most students don't realize how tough it is to show a lamb.

"(Students) don't realize how much work it is going to be. We say, 'you have to learn how to walk a sheep.' They are like, 'that is not a big deal.' Then they get out there and realize how stubborn these lambs can be and how they want to do their own thing sometimes. They kind of have to break them from all of that.

"As far as I know we are the only school in eastern N.C. that has what we call a show team. There is another group in the mountains that does it, but we are the only FFA group here today."

Only five of her 13 students had shown lambs before, she said. Mrs. Jennings, who is in her fifth year with the team, said it was the largest team yet.

"It is part of the FFA," she said. "We open it up to any student at the beginning of the year who is interested in showing. We have some practice rounds and they kind of get to see if they want to do it or not and get a feel for it."

The sheep are raised by Mrs. Jennings and her husband, Brent.

The students practice three days a week, she said.

'The first thing is to teach them how to put them on a halter and walk them in a big circle," she said. "They have been exercising them trying to get them nice and lean and make sure they look good. We have a lot of sheep get loose the first couple of practices, and we have to chase them and run around, but that is a lot of fun, too. It is a good experience."

When the students arrive the lambs are checked in, weighed then washed. The animals were sheared two days prior to the competition to make sure their "wool looks nice," she said.

Lauren Woodard, 14, a student at Princeton High School and her brother, Jackson Woodard, 7, a student at Princeton Elemen-tary School, were waiting in the shade for the competition to start.

It is the second year Jackson has competed.

"I get to play with the animals," he said.

Lauren was unable to compete. She is recovering from a broken ankle suffered prior to a volleyball game.

"I showed sheep in my first year since they were smaller," she said. "Then I got into cows. I also have shown pigs. I have to help him out a little bit because he hasn't quite got the hang of it yet. He does pretty good by himself."