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Nienhaus family is busy getting projects ready for the Stevens County Fair

Some of the best dressed animals at the Stevens County Fair can be seen at the Lamb Lead on Thursday night. This special show, held at 5:30 p.m., is a time for 4-Hers to ‘dress up’ themselves and their animals in items made from wool, an important product from the sheep industry.

Participating in the Lamb Lead will be Gabbi, Bennett and Isaac Nienhaus, children of Barry and Patty Nienhaus of rural Hancock. These three Hodges 4-H club members have been busy preparing their sheep and swine show entries for the fair next week. One of their favorite parts of judging is the Lamb Lead where not only do they dress in wool items, but so does the animal. They have been busy shopping, their mom has been busy sewing and even grandma, Gay Kill, has been busy knitting wool scarves for the lambs.

The three explained that the Lamb Lead is different from the regular sheep show which starts thirty minutes later. During the sheep show, judges are evaluating the qualities of the animal while the Lamb Lead is more about the product. For both judging events and the livestock interviews, the participants need to study all they can about the industry.

For Bennett this will be his fourth year in 4-H. One year later his sister, Gabbi and brother, Isaac, decided to join him. Bennett will be in eighth grade next year at Hancock Public Schools, Gabbi will be a senior and Isaac in sixth grade. For them, 4-H has been about many things but, most of all, meeting new friends and learning new things.

Along with their sheep projects each of the Nienhaus kids will be entering pigs in the Swine Show and Bennett will try a new project with his Prospect Calf. They have been studying up on all the projects and also taking some courses now required for entering at the State Fair and in the Swine Show. These courses focus on some of the health issues the animals could face and how to avoid cross contaminations. The pork industry is especially stressing bacteria free environments for the animals.

The Nienhaus children show animals that are born and raised on their farm. Except for the Prospect Calf, each of the animals they will be exhibiting have been hand-picked by them from litters born this last spring. When selecting the animals they look for some of the things the judges look for such as muscle tone, bone structure, appearance and product. After selecting the animal, they work on preparing them for the shows.  They spend time with the animals so they become accustomed to being touched and approached by a judge. They wash them regularly and prepare them to get  trimmed up and fitted for showing.

They also carefully select feed and feed them the correct amount each day. For the sheep this is two pounds per day of a corn and soybean mixture. The animals are also vacinated as required by regulations and tails are removed.

While the animals are growing and getting used to their 4-H owners, the 4-Hers are also preparing for the fair. With the Lamb Lead, 80 percent of their clothing needs to be made from wool. They can also have items on the sheep to make them look better. The lamb can only be led around the arena with a halter. The 4-Her is not to touch the animal. Half of the judging in this category is on what the 4-Her knows about the wool industry.

Gabi, Bennett and Isaac are also busy during this time with other 4-H related events. They help with ditch cleaning, attend regular meetings and collect items for the food shelf. Each year the Hodges Club holds a Christmas party where they make up plates of cookies to be given to club supporters. They also host the annual Easter Egg Hunt at the school. For fun they go on a ski trip in the winter and of course work in the food stand at the fair.

Each of them enjoys all these events but their favorite part about 4-H is being able to show at the fair and meet new people. While Gabi finds breaking in the animals to be a challenge, they all enjoy their selected projects. They would easily encourage other young people to join 4-H and begin to learn and have fun.

Check out the fair next week in Morris and especially join the fun at the Lamb Lead where you might just find some very nicely dressed 4-Hers accompanied by their equally well-dressed lambs.