This past month has been a little exhausting, but rewarding and fun. I am finishing the column late tonight after traveling to Springfield and back for the Illinois State Fair Shearing Contest. First, I would like to thank all the volunteers who make the shearing contest a success, as well as the shearers, who travel to Illinois for the contest.

This year there were 12 contestants and one junior contestant. They were from seven different states: South Dakota, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, Illinois and New Hampshire. The contestants shear three sheep each round. Judging is a combination of scores for the quality of the wool cuts, the speed three sheep are sheared and the appearance of the sheared sheep.

This year’s champion is Alex Moser from Iowa. Jim Davis from Illinois was second. Alex also had the fastest time. He sheared three sheep in 4 minutes 13 seconds. Even faster than last year! Thank you to the Illinois State Fair for hosting the contest, and the livestock overall general superintendent Brian for his assistance. The contest is a great way to promote wool and the sheep industry.

The county fair near my farm was held the first week in August. The weather was perfect, no rain and cool temperatures. All my nieces and nephews did great with their animals. I had a good opportunity to visit several barns with my grandkids. For a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, the animals are the best part of the fair. I would agree the animals are the best part!  County and state fairs are a great way to promote agriculture in a positive way. I am happy to be one of the volunteers who make the fair a success, even if it will take a few days to catch up on my sleep.

Also during the first week of August, the hay in the pasture was cut and baled. The timing was later than in past years and I was nervous the growth would not be enough to yield very many bales. Luckily there was plenty of rain in July to keep it growing and there were 12 big bales. The bales are dense. The grass was at a good growth level, not overgrown. The experiment of cutting the field in June and waiting until August to bale it worked well this year.

I had the opportunity to promote the benefits of wool to a group of people from the western suburbs of Chicago. A busload of 30 came for a tour of the fiber mill. I demonstrated how wool directly sheared from the sheep is turned into yarn. The group asked a lot of good questions and appreciated the tour. We had a good discussion about the benefits of wool and the reasons why wool is unique. Special thank you to my niece for showing the group her Shetland ewe lamb and explaining how she takes care of her.

Hope you have a great month!

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