Butte-Lawrence Co. Fair Catch-A-Sheep Contest in its 8th year
The 8th Annual Catch-A-Sheep contest will be held Thursday, Aug. 18, at the Butte-Lawrence County Fair, Nisland, SD, following the sheep show and the Butte Electric Customer Appreciation barbecue.
This event allows youth from eight to twelve years of age to enter in hope of winning a ewe lamb. The contest involves the catching, haltering and leading/dragging of a mature sheep through a gate. The sheep is not in favor of this, so there is usually quite a contest of wills and strength before the objective is achieved. Those fortunate and gritty enough to get it done are then paired with a sheep producer who has donated a ewe lamb for the contest.
It’s not easy and those who win a lamb have certainly worked for it, as the sheep to be caught are highly opinionated cull ewes, furnished by St. Onge Livestock/Newell Sheep Yards, courtesy of Barney Barnes and Gilbert Woods. Getting “sheep stomped” is a very real possibility, besides getting run over by other contestants. Bruises, rope burns and various abrasions don’t deter the youngsters, for they are determined to win a lamb. To date, no sheep has been injured in any way during the competition.
The Catch-A-Sheep contest was begun when a youth moved from Wyoming where a similar contest was held. “Tyler Ferris had won a lamb in Wyoming and he and his Mom brought the concept to us and asked if it could be done here. We simplified the rules to make it more producer, family and child friendly,” said Gwen Kitzan, Nisland, SD, who is on the committee. Other committee members are: Keith Franke, Belle Fourche; Marilea Ferris, Rapid City; and Tyler Ferris, Rapid City.
The rules are that the 2011 ewe lamb will be shown in 2012 as a yearling, then shown as a two-year old or aged ewe with her offspring. The fleece from the ewe lamb will be shown in 2012 and 2013 as well.
The kids keep a portfolio of the experience and it is judged with a $50 prize up for grabs. The portfolio then goes home with the person who donated the lamb so they can see what’s been done with it. The portfolio is later returned to the youth.
Kitzan said, “It keeps the sheep show numbers up and a good fleece contest at the fair.”
The committee only asks producers to donate a ewe lamb once every five years. Over 30 producers have participated during the course of the event, with many wanting to donate more often. “We keep it at once every five years though, so we can keep more producers involved.” Kitzan noted. “Despite high lamb prices, the support has continued because the producers see such a great value in doing it.”
Producers are also serve as mentors to youth, helping them with their ewe and answering questions whenever they arise. It’s a win-win situation for both parties. “It goes beyond the sheep sometimes. These are good folks who are involved and they like to help the kids,” said Kitzan.
Those donating ewe lambs for 2011 are all from South Dakota: Garness Farms, (Ray and Barb), Newell; Olson Ranch (Clay and Molly), Hoover, SD; Keith and Von Franke, Belle Fourche; Casey Humble, Maurine; and Jeff Horman, Belle Fourche.
“They’ll be the best ewe lamb they have, too,” added Kitzan, “One family who donated one year didn’t think they had a lamb good enough, so they bought a ewe lamb to donate. They wanted to be sure it was going to be a good one.”
The Catch-A-Sheep contest isn’t affiliated with the sheep show or the fair, but is supported heartily by both entities. Volunteers seemingly come out of the woodwork to help with the contest itself, and it’s a crowd favorite. The Newell Ambulance is in attendance just in case someone gets hurt, and the committee appreciates the volunteers who accompany it. Kitzan stated, “Many individuals without kids at the fair come and help. The attitude of the people is that they see the future in these youth. It’s more than just a sheep.”
Any youth, ages eight to twelve can enter. Application and entry forms are available at the Butte Co. Extension office or at the fair office at the fairgrounds before Aug. 18. The applications are reviewed and care is taken to ensure that the youth is able to care for the lamb and carry out the project.
It’s great fun to watch and all are welcome to take in the contest this year at the Butte-Lawrence Co. Fair sheep show ring.
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