Raising Kids with Sheep

We got back late Sunday night after an eventful weekend at NAILE in Kentucky. We had a great time with all of our sheep friends but we are happy to be back home! I always enjoy NAILE because of all the people I get to see (some of which I only see once a year) and of course the awesome sheep. Several of our sheep friends had banner days in the Southdown junior show and we couldn’t be happier for them! Outsiders may think that showing sheep isn’t hard work. It’s easy to buy or raise good sheep and get them to the ring. But it isn’t easy! Far from it. The kids that show on this stage are putting in hours and months of work long before the green shavings. Raising and showing livestock is not easy m, cheap or for the faint of heart. If it were easy everyone would do it! But I’ll tell you one thing that makes all this work easier….we aren’t actually raising sheep here….the sheep are helping us raise our kids. What?! You heard me! Yes we are letting cloven hoof, wooly (sometimes hairy 😂) four chambered stomach, cud chewing, stubborn animals help us raise our kids. 😱 You may think we’re crazy but we aren’t. Go to a livestock show and see what I mean. I have met so many youth at stock shows that work harder than some of the college students I teach. Stock show kids know what it means to be at the barn late and up early the next day for a show. They know what it means to drive hundreds of miles to win second place in showmanship and say “I’ll do better next time” but still congratulate the kid that beat them. They know what responsibility is. And they’ve been raised by those animals🤔 Is it easy letting sheep raise your kids?? No. Not at all, but it’s totally worth it. All the late nights and early mornings are completely worth while. I see my young daughter helping her daddy fit a Southdown lambs legs with such determination that it makes me smile and cry. She works so hard to get them just right! Just this last weekend she was watching her cousin and friends in the show ring and told me “Mommy next year I grow big and strong and I show my sheep in Looville all by myself!” She is two and already wants to show by herself. It’s not easy seeing her grow up so fast but I know as long as we keep her around livestock she will have a blast. Stock show kids are some of the best and they go on to do great things. The go on to judge collegiately, win public speaking contests and national FFA and 4H awards. They do big things, huge things and it’s all because we as parents trusted those smelly sheep to help raise them. This can be said for any species really but sheep mean the most for me and my family. So while other parents are doing play dates and worrying about how clean their kids are (no offense I worry about this too! 😂) my child will be playing in the barn, probably trying to palpate a sheep, help a ewe lamb, or carry a lamb around just because, maybe brushing a pig or scooping manure. Me and my husband will do our best to keep her safe but we will let those sheep teach her responsibility, hard work, determination, love, loss and a myriad of other emotions that come with raising livestock. We aren’t just raising sheep here, they’re helping us raise our kids in barns, pastures and show rings. And if the kids I know in this industry are any indication I’d say the sheep are doing a great job!

I hope everyone makes it home safe from Kentucky today after the last of the open shows. It was great to see everyone! Now bring on lambing season 💗

Thank you for reading!

-Jessy Shanks

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