Raising lambs takes hard work and lots of time


March 3, 2012 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated March 2, 2012 at 9:03 p.m.

Kylie Fitch walks in to the Victoria Livestock Show with her market lamb, Max.

Kylie Fitch walks in to the Victoria Livestock Show with her market lamb, Max.   Frank Tilley for The Victoria Advocate

Extra shut-eye is rare for many stock show exhibitors, but it was a treat Kylie Fitch took advantage of Friday.

With the Victoria Livestock Show's market lamb competition taking place later that day, Mom Kelly Fitch let her daughter rest up.

"I knew she had a long day ahead, so we let her sleep in," she explained. "She was going to need it."

The second-time exhibitor had worked for months, training her animal, and it all came down to that one day.

Early prep

The market lamb joined the family in July and quickly showed Kylie that, like other animals, each lamb has a different personality.

"Last year, it wasn't too hard," she said. "This year, he's a little uncontrollable."

That headstrong attitude could possibly be due a quadrupled identity crisis. The animal - dubbed "Max" for short - underwent a name change in recent months.

What started out as Max-a-million, a name Kylie said she hoped would help bring $1 million at sale, later became Max-a-miniature.

"Once we sheared him, he was small," the curly-haired exhibitor said. "That's when we changed it."

Although the 9-year-old had help from family and neighbors, Max's care and keeping was mainly Kylie's responsibility.

"We do not feed that lamb," Mom said with a smile. "That's her responsibility. She goes out there before school to feed and water him and takes care of him. It's a lot of responsibility."

Kylie also set aside about a half hour each day to work with him, walking him around the property, setting him up and walking him some more. It was all preparation for the judging ring, when Max needed to be on his best behavior.

"You want him to be ready out there," she said.

Show day

On Friday morning, Kelly Fitch woke about 5:30 a.m. inside the family's camper, which was parked conveniently at the Victoria Community Center. While she set out to clean the pen and do the morning animal chores, Kylie snoozed a bit longer.

By 9:30 a.m., however, the kiddo was up and ready to face the tasks ahead.

Competition preparation included a morning bath for Max with a bottle of shampoo and an outdoor hose, and a walk around the property. Just like cramming for a test at school, that last-minute practice couldn't hurt.

After a quick dry and a brush through Max's fuzzy legs, it was time for Kylie to get ready herself.

"I'm excited and a little nervous," she said as she sat among friends and family. "Well, mostly nervous."

Facing the judges

Kylie and her four-legged partner entered the arena shortly after 1 p.m. with the others in the lightweight lamb class.

Decked out in a rhinestone-studded button-down shirt, belt and headband, her gear was a far cry from the pink T-shirt she'd worn just hours before.

While Kylie was ready to perform, Max wasn't.

The stubborn animal did what he could to avoid walking where the tiny girl led him, but Kylie kept cool under pressure. With a look of sheer determination - and a slight blush across her freckled cheeks - she managed to keep him still for judging.

But it didn't quite go as planned.

Kylie took fifth place in her class - an alternate position - and didn't garner a showmanship award, but held her head high as she led Max from the arena.

After all, it really isn't the numbers and ribbons that matter.

Kylie took the placement and hard times in the ring in stride as she shrugged her shoulders and quickly found her brother to play with. She then settled in to watch the rest of the show.

Mom said she's proud of what her daughter accomplished.

"It's hard when you're so little," she said. "It's a big old animal. But she did so well."



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