KINGSBURG – While most Big Fresno Fair-goers are thinking of carnival rides, games, shows and the tasty foods to snack on, a group of dedicated Kingsburg 4H students are thinking of presenting months of work and hoping to catch judges’ eyes with their animals.
Among them was a trio of 4H members showing in the junior dairy goat showmanship contests Oct. 2-3.
Kingsburg’s sisters Gracie Rocha, 13, and Lillian Rocha, 10, and fellow 4H member, Mikayla Rosales, 12, were ready in the Carolee Boele Livestock Pavilion on the south end of the fairgrounds Oct. 4. They shared what it takes to prepare to show animals at the fair competitions and how they geared up for what most consider the hardest part of the experience - letting their animal go at the end of it all since they are raised for meat.
The auctions continue at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 12 when students will be selling beef, sheep and swine.
Lillian Rocha is following in her big sister’s footsteps and showing dairy market goats for the first time ever this year. It’s also her first year in 4H.
Their goats live on their property, so the girls are able to get up early feed them, walk them and run them for exercise.
“I get up at 5 o’clock every day,” Lillian said of learning to be responsible for her goats.
“You are learning to be responsible because you’re waking up early to feed them. I’m not,” their mother Summer Rocha said.
During the fair, the 4H members wear their white 4H uniforms and must keep them clean, despite the often dusty conditions around the livestock building. For Lillian especially, staying clean can be a challenge.
“It’s really hard [to stay clean] because my goat, Woody, jumps.”
Then, while the public is coming through the livestock building, the girls say they are ready to answer questions about feeding, care and the purpose of the different goats.
Gracie Rocha is showing two goats this year: Oakley, a Boer goat, and Thumper, a dairy market goat.
The goats had already been judged earlier in the week and would be auctioned off that weekend. During the judging, Rocha said the challenge is in keeping good eye contact with the judges while keeping the animal’s feet squared up as well.
“The judges are looking for showmanship, how well you worked with the goat and how good it is. For market, they’re looking at the muscle and if they’d want to eat that meat and if it’s good.”
Rocha’s been in 4H for three years now and has competed with goats all three years.
“This year, I decided to try something new. I was just doing dairy market goats the first two years, so I did a boar goat this year. It’s the same really but with the boar, you have to work with them more to show their muscles.”
While getting over being nervous during judging is one thing, accepting the fact one of her goats will be auctioned and sold for their meat is another.
“My first year, I cried. It was bad. The second year, it wasn’t as bad,” she said. “This year, I’ll try to hold in my tears in and stay strong.”
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The auction was Oct. 5 and buyers would pick up the animals they purchased the following day.
Mikayla Rosales is also showing market goats, two wethers - Tubby and Billy Bob - and one doe, Oakley R.
Rosales said she likes that raising and showing the goats has taught her responsibility and to appreciate having the opportunity to be in 4H in the first place.
“It’s helped me mature a lot faster than other people that don’t do this because you learn the responsibility that comes along with it.”
In 4H, the students also give presentations to each other about the different projects they are working on throughout the year. Rosales said, sometimes, the other 4H members may shy away from giving those presentations, but she never been shy about talking about her goats.
“I always like to talk to people when the public comes through [during the fair]. I’m the first one to get right on it and start talking.”
One thing she likes to share with others is that there’s more to raising the goats and competing at the Fair with them than just feeding and watering the animals.
“You really have to go out there every day so they get used to you and you can train them and exercise them. Others don’t realize what a big commitment it is.”
This year, Rosales’ goat earned the reserve supreme ribbon and that means he’s the second best entered in the fair in her category.
“It’s sort of sad, but he’ll be in the champions club [Saturday] which means he’ll be one of the first auctioned off and once he’s auctioned off, it’s a mandatory kill. No matter who buys it, he has to be slaughtered for meat which is a bummer, but I’m alright with it. They’re raised for meat.”
And then Rosales and the other 4H members will start all over again in March. That’s when goats are typically born. After two or three months, the goats may be weaned from their mothers and the students can pick out which one they’d like to take on for the next year’s project.
“I usually get my goats at the beginning of summer in June. But they’re usually born in March so you go out there and pick yours out when they’re first born.”
Since she lives in town, she needs to get up even earlier to have a parent drive her out to her goats to feed them every day. And for that, too, she’s grateful.
Since the youth involved in 4H are involved in a wide variety of projects, Rosales encourages other students to consider joining their club to take on new challenges.
“Being in 4H and everything I’ve done has changed me as a person. You do a lot of things and service. It makes you realize how important it is to be thankful for what you have. It’s made me a better person.”
According to Fair officials, young exhibitors had sales exceeding $945,000 in 2018 from the sale of 809 market animals sold. The highest selling animal was sold for $23,069, with 45 Champion animals at the Fair; 11 of which were Supreme Champions. This money allows them to purchase their project animals for the next year, save for college or fund feed for their breeding projects.
“This program helps build character, teaches responsibility and is our youth’s first look at the business world tied to agriculture," Livestock Superintendent/Competitive Exhibits Representative Terri O’Leary Collins said. "What they learn during the year will help them as they grow in life, become young adults and future leaders in our community.”