By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Months of wrangling hefty cows, getting up for early morning swine feedings, and coaxing obstinate goats may pay off this week for kids showing their livestock at the Wood County Fair this week.
As adults were setting up carnival rides and food stands Sunday in the front of the Wood County Fairgrounds, kids were getting their livestock ready to show.
Kassie Fintel, 17, has been building a relationship with Tot, an 800-pound beef feeder, since February to prepare him for the fair. Basically, it comes down to teaching some manners to Tot (whose twin is of course named Tater).
“It’s so much work,” said Fintel, who goes to Bowling Green High School. “It’s countless hours every summer.”
In addition to the feeding and cleaning of stalls, Fintel spent quite a bit of time walking Tot.
“We have to walk them or they won’t be broken for the fair,” she said as she nudged Tot into position.
During judging, Tot will be asked to show that he can raise his feet when tapped with a stick, set his feet square, stand quietly in the ring, and walk without running.
“Basically, manners,” Fintel said.
At that moment, Tot decided to ignore Fintel and instead chew on a ribbon tacked to the fair pen.
“I love his personality,” Fintel said. “He’s such a little dog basically. He doesn’t realize how big he is.”
Fintel also shows her quarter horse, Tuck, at the fair. That is less of a challenge since she and Tuck have been partners for years.
“My horse has been trained, and we know what we’re doing,” Fintel said.
At the barn next door, goats were being weighed in for the week. Though many of the animals showed reluctance to comply with their owners’ wishes, the goats clearly won the prize for being the most ornery.
Mason Roe, 11, of Weston, was waiting with his goats, Trixie and Scarlett – neither who were particular about the spellings of their names.
“They’re funny,” Roe said. “They walk and jump.”
Like the other kids at the fair, Roe has spent months feeding, cleaning, shaving and walking his goats. He found that the pair had a fondness for eating corn. However, since goats bloat up with too much corn, he usually feeds Trixie and Scarlett specialty feed and hay.
His goats weighed in at 102 and 80 pounds – making that training component so very important. “I hope they don’t fight with me,” while being shown, Roe said.
In the rabbit and poultry barn, Emma Meek, 12, of Grand Rapids, and Addysen Limes, 12, of Weston, talked about their labor of love with livestock.
“It’s a lot of commitment,” said Limes, who has meat chickens, pullets and market ducks at the fair.
Meek has swine and beef cattle.
“Mine is easier than Emma’s. She has to pull around cattle,” Limes said.
Meek, however, had developed a strategy with her pig and cattle.
“Both my animals love marshmallows and cucumbers,” she said. “I wouldn’t say it’s bribery,” but it has helped with behavioral issues.
Limes also learned a secret to fattening up her chickens. “You have to keep a light on at night so they keep eating,” she said.
Limes has also learned the value of frequently washing her poultry. “They smell really bad otherwise,” she said.
Though raising livestock requires early hours and lots of work, both Meek and Limes look forward to this week all year round. Their conversations at school often revolve around the county fair.
“Once the fair is over, I wait the whole year for the next one,” Limes said.
Nearby, Ashley Brinkman, 14, of Tontogany, was putting her five California and New Zealand rabbits on display. She doesn’t bother naming the white rabbits. “I couldn’t tell them apart,” she said.
While training a rabbit may not seem as vital as managing a large beef feeder, Brinkman said she works to tame her hares. “So they don’t hop away from you during judging,” she said.
In the sheep barn, Elijah Moody, 13, of Cygnet, was sitting next to the pen of his Hampshire sheep named Macho Man. Unlike goats that can be pretty stubborn, Moody said his goat is usually well behaved.
“I just walk him around our yard. He’s pretty cooperative,” Moody said. As for those 7 a.m. feedings in the summer, when most other kids are still in bed – he’s OK with that now that fair week is here.
“The work’s definitely worthwhile,” Moody said.