This little lamb went to college...
At first glance, she’s an ordinary second grader.
Her shoes are untied, tiny lamb earrings dangle from each ear, and she’s doing a precarious balancing act on her dad’s rolling chair while doing math homework.
Ava Teasley shows me her work, using addition to check double digit subtraction, and declares that science is a better subject.
Butterflies, ladybugs, flies, and bees top her list of favorite science topics, and she quickly corrects me when I refer to spiders as insects (they are arachnids).
Some would say all 7-yearolds are persistent when they want something, but I’ve noticed that many move on to their next “must have” within days, or even hours.
Last year, however, Ava asked her parents for a lamb.
Her dad, FFA-FCCLA Center Director Todd Teasley, said he encouraged her to get a hog instead, because he thought it would be easier to show.
Ava persistently asked for the lamb — for three straight months.
Her parents agreed, but only if she’d show the lambs in 4-H livestock shows in the fall. And so it began. Instead of rising just in time to throw on clothes and eat breakfast on the way to Ms. Watterson’s class at Heard Mixon Elementary, the family rose early to feed lambs Maggie and Moses.
Afternoons were spent exercising, training, or washing the lambs, and cleaning the barn.
Ava tells me she did not do all the work— it was a family affair.
“It’s all about having fun, but it’s also something our whole family can do together,” said Todd Teasley.
Ava received help and lessons from her parents, FFA camp employees, and UGA county agent TedWynne.
By the end of the season, she was doing most of the work herself, even clipping the lambs.
In addition to learning responsibility, there were additional benefits.
“I like spending time with my family,” said Ava. “The best part is winning, though… and riding rides at the fair.”
She stretches her arms out to describe the length of her largest ribbon. She also won cash prizes.
Lambs are judged in weight classes based on marketability, and youth are judged in showmanship by how well they can control the lamb, set it up (bracing), and do it all while looking at the judge and smiling.
At one show, Ava’s dad offered her $50 if she won first in showmanship.
Ava says her dad gave her the money even though she came in second, but he quickly reminds her he did it for a reason.
Before she goes into the ring, Ava’s family talks about her goal: “to glorify God,” Ava says.
She does this by doing her best work and smiling for the judges, but at this show the child ahead of her had a stubborn lamb.
While Ava could have chosen to keep her attention solely on her own lamb to be sure she won, she instead helped the other child while her own lamb acted up a little.
The family agreed she had accomplished her goal by helping the other child before thinking of her own possible winnings.
At the Junior National Show in Perry, Ava earned 2nd in showmanship and 5th and 8th in weight classes.
Ava’s winnings and income from selling the lambs will go in part to purchase her lambs for next year, when she hopes to show three and have one as a backup.
“I don’t like to talk about that part,” she says when I ask about the lamb sale. “We say Moses went off to college, and Maggie went to get married.”
Her dad explains that Moses was bought by UGA for use in livestock judging classes, and Maggie was purchased back by her breeder. Ava hopes to show one of Maggie’s lambs next season.
Ava says while all children may not be willing to do the work, she thinks most would enjoy raising and showing a lamb.
Youth in the first grade next year can start looking for a lamb to purchase early in 2009.
Ava shared a tip for keeping lambs calm: “I hum to them in the ring.”
She says it took several tries to figure out each lamb’s favorite, but Moses preferred “Up on the Housetop” while Maggie most liked “I Love You” from Barney.
Terri Kimble is the 4-H Program Specialist for Newton County 4-H. She can be reached at 770-784-2010 or tkimble@ uga.edu
Ava had a little lamb: Ava Teasley, 7, a second grade 4-H Livestock Team member at Heard Mixon Elementary, with her sister Elizabeth, who won a trophy in the pre-K “fun” show , and lamb Moses at the Junior National show at the Georgia National Fair in Perry, Ga. 4-H lamb showing was a family affair for the Teasleys.