Clovers learn livestock basics

Showmanship: Youngest 4-H members discover the fun of competing at agricultural fairs.

August 15, 2004|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Annie McGraw, 8, was a whiz at identifying types of animal feed and equipment used to care for livestock, but telling a Hampshire from a Montadale sheep and a Brahman from a Hereford steer stumped her a little.

As a member of the Howard County Livestock Clovers, Annie took part in several events last week at the Howard County Fair geared toward the youngest 4-H members. That included a quiz Thursday to see how much the participants have learned over the year. "We take this test every year, but it's still kind of tricky," said Annie, who lives in Woodbine.

Early last week, the Clovers, who had to be 5, 6, or 7 years old on Jan. 1, practiced animal showmanship skills. The first-year Clovers took stuffed animals into the ring at the cattle, sheep and swine shows and answered questions from the judges. The older children showed live animals with help from 4-H members who serve as junior leaders for the program.

The quiz portion takes place last. It is not graded, and the questioners - all junior leaders - are encouraging and generous with hints.

"We have geared the whole program to be fun," said Doris Bell of Clarksville, one of the program leaders.

Bell helped start the program about 15 years ago, and believes it was the first Clovers group in Maryland to center on livestock. She said Howard's is one of only two such programs today. Clovers in other areas focus on crafts and other nonanimal projects, she said.

The fair, which wrapped up eight days of animal shows, contests, rides and entertainment yesterday in West Friendship, is an opportunity for the Clovers to work with animals, get into the show ring and interact with older 4-H members.

Despite some of the tough questions, Annie said, the program is fun. "We do crafts at the meetings. And it is a good opportunity to show animals that you don't normally get to show," she said.

For children interested in livestock, the Clovers can also give them a head start.

"It gets you started learning what it is about," said Lauren Bresnock, 12, a former Clover from Mount Airy. "When you are 8 and go into 4-H you know what to do with the animals."

Jennifer Brigante, 6, of Woodbine enjoyed showing her toy animals and is eager to do more. "I want to show a big one, because it's fun," she said.

She said she especially likes cows, because, "They're big and they're black sometimes."

As a first-year Clover, Jennifer didn't have to name all of the animal breeds during the test. But she knew what a mommy pig, daddy pig and baby pig are called, answering a sow, a boar and a piglet.

"You are so good at this," Katherine Robinson, one of the junior leaders, told Jennifer.

The Clovers will continue to meet in the fall, with lessons that focus on dairy cattle and poultry.

One meeting will examine animal products and teach the kids to make balls of felt out of wool.

"Some won't go on to show livestock, but some will," Bell said. "If nothing else, they've learned a little bit about the livestock world."

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