Emily Little

Livestock show will be double the fun, hard work

As most of you know, I raise and show livestock animals in the Highlands County Fair. As summer comes to an end, show season begins. Typically, I show only one animal, and that is a handful as it is. This year, however, I got the crazy idea to raise two - both a steer and a heifer.

I began the process as usual. I went out in search of the perfect animal, this time I was just doing double. I spent a few hours making my decision because I wanted to be sure I picked the best animal possible. When I finally decided upon the two I loved, I purchased them and prepared for their arrival the next week. After what seemed like forever, we drove back out to the ranch where they were currently residing and put halters on them. They were then loaded up into a trailer, and driven to the Sebring High School barn.

The first day is always relatively calm - well, minus the aspect of actually unloading the animals and getting them into their pens. Once they were safe and sound in their new homes, my two new animals started adjusting to their surroundings. Although they were separated by wooden boards, they were glued as close to each other as possible. They were scared and jumpy, as anyone would be if they were taken to a new place and just dropped off. I put some feed down for them both, spent a few hours down at the barn so they could get used to me, and then headed home.

The next day was spent trying to coerce the animals into walking within five feet of me. Rather than just being able to sit in one stall all day, I had to divide my time up. Every hour or so I would switch animals, and let my dad sit in the other stall so both animals could get used to human interaction. My steer, JFK, acted much more relaxed than his female counterpart. My heifer, Jackie O., was visibly stressed the entire day. She was circling her pen, and jumped every time someone made a sudden movement.

Now that I have had my animals for nearly two weeks, one would think the adjustment period is coming to a close. However, my two animals this year are a bit more nervous than my heifer was last year, so they are not quite there yet. I have been able to walk my steer in the hallway a bit, which is definitely a good sign. My heifer, on the other hand, has a bit of a tantrum any time someone steps too close to her left side. However, they both allow me to pet them as they are eating, which is a sign of being comfortable. Each day, they both start to trust me a bit more - especially since they are learning to associate me with getting fed! I have faith that over time they both will continue to progress well.

For the next couple of weeks, at least before school starts, most of my time will be spent at the barn. I have gotten a bit creative with my time management skills, as I now bring a folding lawn chair down to the barn each day and work on some of my summer reading. While this year will surely take more time and effort, I am definitely up for the challenge. I can’t wait to see what this year with my two new animals has in store.