Nelson leads animals to fair (with video)
When Emma Nelson walks into her livestock barn, the animals know her.
"As soon as I walk into the barn they are calling me," Nelson said. "They know the way I walk, the way I talk." Nelson also said the animals recognize her scent. "You get them used to you," Nelson said.
Nelson, 17, lives in rural Hancock on a farm just east of Page Lake. She's a member of the Hodges 4-H club. She will bring her animals to the Stevens County Fair on Aug. 8-13 in Morris. Nelson has two sheep, three goats and a beef steer.
"I was really nervous (for beef). This is my first year showing beef," Nelson said. "Cattle have always made me nervous."
Cattle are much larger than a sheep or goat. Her steer has gained the equivalent of five sheep in pounds since she got him in October.
Although nervous in the beginning, "it's been a great experience to learn to work with a bigger animal and to build that trust," Nelson said.
"I still want to be careful," Nelson said. The progress made between Nelson and her steer, called Beef Wellington, or Beef for short, was evident during the pair's first open show.
"I was proud of how he behaved," Nelson said. "He was surrounded by 40 other animals." Yet, Beef, calmed down and handled the show.
Beef isn't around the steers much but he does share a barn with Grover and Franklin, Nelson's two sheep, and another sheep housed for a fellow 4-H member and Nelson's goats Bob Ross, Francine and Miss Frizzle or Frizz for short. The names are from Public Broadcasting shows such as The Magic School Bus and Sesame Street, Nelson said.
Sheep have been a mainstay at county fairs for many years but Nelson's interest in goats helped spark a few more goat entries over the past several years.
"Goats aren't as popular and I had the notion to try something new," Nelson said. "People thought I was a little crazy but now, you see more goats."
At first there were seven goats at the fair and now there are 35. Nelson's been showing goats for about four years.
They formed a connection with a goat farmer and even "went to help artificially inseminate" the farmer's herd, Nelson's dad Barry said.
Nelson has shared information about her goat source and raising them with other 4-H members, Barry and her mom Sandy said.
Although goats are her favorite animal, "I personally think goats are a lot harder to train than sheep," Nelson said.
Goats are smart and stubborn. Whereas sheep are smart but they more easily respond to being led.
The goats are active when Nelson is inside the barn. They watch strangers with curiousity, but from across the pen, until they realize Nelson is comfortable with the stranger. Francine jumps up to a wooden object that is, or resembles, a big spool used to hold wound cable, when Nelson is in the pen. The jump is in part to get Nelson's attention, and in part, to see what's happening in the barn.
While the goats have healthy appetites they do not eat everything they can get their mouths on, Nelson said.
"I've researched that," Nelson said. Goats will appear to bite or chew or eat plastic, wood, paper but they aren't. "The science behind it is that they touch and feel with mouth to see what it is," Nelson said.
The goats have their own feed. The sheep have their own feed and Beef has his own feed. The feed for sheep and goats is mixed into pellets.
"You can feed the goats sheep feed but you can't feed the sheep goat food," Nelson said. The sheep have a negative reaction to a certain ingredient in the goat food, she said.
Sheep eat a mixture primarily of rolled corn and oats covered in molasses
The does, Francine and Frizz, eat different food than Bob Ross, the market goat.
All six animals get regular exercise in addition to a proper diet.
Nelson lives on a gravel road not far from Page Lake. She will walk the goats and sheep on that gravel road in one direction. When it is time to return to the farm, the sheep and goats are allowed to run.
One day, a local driver stopped to help round up what he believed to be stray animals, Barry said. The Nelsons had to explain this was part of the exercise routine for the animals.
Pursuing her passion of showing animals takes work. "I consider this my full-time job," Nelson said.
A job with rewards.
"I like learning new things," Nelson said. She learns with each fair and open (non-fair or non-county specific) show as well as with regular record keeping.