Let's see where this little 4-H lamb leads us

The first Sunday that we aimed for a 4-H meeting followed by a tour of Rocky and Kelly Brown's sheep barn, it was post 16 inches of March snow. As we all needed to dig out from the blizzard, the meeting and tour were pushed back to the following ...

The first Sunday that we aimed for a 4-H meeting followed by a tour of Rocky and Kelly Brown's sheep barn, it was post 16 inches of March snow. As we all needed to dig out from the blizzard, the meeting and tour were pushed back to the following Sunday.

On Sunday, March 24, I counted 29 kids between Cloverbuds, ages 5-7, and older 4-H club members, age 8 and above, in the Browns' garage. The Browns' son and fellow 4-H club member Berkeley gave a demonstration to the group on raising sheep and lambs and his preparations for the county fair in the summer.

The demonstration kept all ages attentive and interested in the sheep and lambs they would soon get to see. The kids shared a snack of meat and cheese plus brownies before we all trekked through a winding road of deep mud carved through high banks of snow. Many parents accompanied their kids. Everyone wore boots but a few with shorter boots wished they had worn something taller as we trudged to the barn, mud spilling over the top of short boots.

McIntosh County 4-H members and parents trek through spring mud at the Brown ranch, Wishek, N.D., on March 24, to tour the Brown's sheep barn. (Katie Pinke/ Agweek)

Parts of our south-central North Dakota county have recorded nearly 100 inches of snow this winter and the melt has been slow thankfully to prevent flooding issues. However, it's creating a long season of McIntosh County mud. I could hear some frustration from the kids if working their way through all of this spring mud was worth it to get to the sheep barn.


As soon as the kids and parents quietly entered the barn, the frustration of spring mud disappeared.

The Browns took kids around to stalls to see the newest lambs with the ewes right alongside. Kelly and Rocky started with sheep again in 2016 after Rocky raised them in his childhood. This winter they've had three sets of quadruplet lambs and five sets of triplet lambs from 68 ewes that had lambed when we visited. If a ewe doesn't have at least twins, Rocky said they find themselves disappointed.

Early on in the 4-H tour, Rocky offered for a few 4-H members to have the opportunity to lease lambs for showing at the county fair this year. He explained the work and time it will take, a commitment from each member willing to do it. He also explained the positive impact showing livestock had on his childhood and his willingness to teach and offer that to other 4-H members. I knew right away where I thought Rocky's offer would lead but waited to see if it was going to play out as my motherly instinct indicated. I turned my head into a stall where our youngest daughter stood intently watching a lamb nurse on a ewe and her eyes met mine and she said, "Mom! Did you hear what Rocky said about leasing a lamb for the fair? I am doing that. I am. Please go talk to Rocky and tell him, I am doing it. I am showing a lamb."

The newest lamb from a ewe on the Brown ranch at Wishek, N.D., was greeted by 4-H members on a tour on March 24. (Katie Pinke/ Agweek)

Anika is our child most interested and passionate about animals. Since she started talking she has said she wants to be a veterinarian. Her non-livestock owning dad has resisted having her own livestock, pointing out she needs to be old enough to handle the responsibility. I have agreed and said it's only a matter of time before we have to let her have an opportunity to pursue what she sees as a calling in her life. Leasing a lamb sounded like a reasonable starting point, I thought to myself.

I told Anika she needed to ask Rocky herself. I would not be doing any of this for her. If she wants to show a lamb, it is going to take time, preparation, learning, patience and care from her. She suddenly was shyer than her usual bold self but made her way and asked Rocky with some encouragement from me. Rocky agreed and said another member had also already asked and they both could work with Berkeley to start with the lambs.

I came back around to the other side of the barn to see my husband looking out at a corral full of ewes and older lambs and realized Anika had not asked him permission about the leasing of 4-H lambs. He agreed with a smirk and said, "As long as she doesn't have one in her coat she's bringing home today."

Anika leasing a little lamb kicks off a new 4-H experience and project and one we're excited to see where it leads our lamb-loving daughter.


Katie Pinke
Katie Pinke

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