Volunteers Share Knowledge at Lamb Camp

6/29/2013 7:00 AM
By Marla Pisciotta West Virginia Correspondent

CLEARBROOK, VA. — The sound of lambs baa-ing permeated Clarke-Frederick Lamb Camp held at the Frederick County Fairgrounds on Saturday, June 8.

White with black, white and gray, and all black lambs, baa’ed as their owners scrubbed them clean and rinsed them with a hose. Some of the younger kids were helped by adult or teen volunteers.

Thirty-seven children were divided into groups.

“Teen 4-H helpers are known as shepherds at lamb camp, and the younger kids are their flocks,” said Johnetta Pruitt, who helped organize the lamb camp.

Pruitt and Ruth Boden have organized the camp for the past 15 years.

An additional 20 adult volunteer instructors were on-hand to help during the full day of workshops

The groups rotated from one workshop to another.

Ken Pruitt, a seasoned 4-H’er, taught the kids how to make halters. Pruitt said knowing how to make halters is a lost art because most kids nowadays buy their halters.

Kids set down at picnic tables. In front of them were yardsticks and a roll of nylon rope.

The three-eighths inch rope was 10-feet long.

“Roll the rope open and measure 12 inches and mark it by pulling the threads apart. Take the long end and pull it through the rope,” Pruitt told the children.

Ben Shippa, a member of the Lucky 4-H group in Berryville, Va., was having no problem following Pruitt’s directions.

“I’ve been here before,” said Shippa.

Workshops throughout the day included nutrition, showing the animals, games and a showmanship workshop.

Marketing or selling sheep meat was on the agenda and hair sheep are where the profit is nowadays. Hair sheep do not have wool, so they are marketed for their meat.

They are easier to take care of, cost less and bring more money when sold.

“They don’t have to be sheared. They shed like a dog. Their feet are easier to take care of and they are worm tolerant,” said Monroe Williams, sheep owner and sheepdog trainer.

Williams said the cost to shear a sheep is between $3 and $5. The bag that holds the wool costs money and there is an additional cost for hauling the wool to market.

There is about 7 pounds of wool sheared per animal and the wool brings about 33 cents a pound.

“You do the math. Raising hair sheep for meat brings more profit,” Williams said.

Williams said the wool market in this country is on decline, while the meat demand is increasing.

“Ethnic people are running the price of lamb up. More and more people are eating lamb. Most ethnic people eat lamb at Thanksgiving,” Williams said.

Williams has been training sheepdogs since 1993. He did a demonstration for the kids at camp.

He explained how resourceful a sheepdog is when owning a herd of 130 to 140 sheep.

“When the sheep are in the field you can send the dog to get them,” Williams said.

He uses different whistles to direct his dogs. He said voice direction isn’t effective from a distance.

Whistles can be heard by the dog from 500 to 600 yards out.

Sheepdogs are trained to put sheep in the shutes for trimming, shearing or worming.

Two dogs can be trained to work together at the same time, working on each side of a herd of sheep.

“Each dog works with different whistles,” he said.

Williams volunteers his time to the 4-H groups because he thinks it’s important for the youth to learn the asset of a sheepdog.

“I enjoy doing this. It has developed from a hobby to a way of life and farming,” he said.

Williams said the National Sheepdog Finals, the super bowl of sheepdog herding, will be held Oct. 7-13 in Middletown, Va.

Lamb camp included a lamb beauty contest; a veterinarian showed how to trim hoofs and talked about parasites.

Kids were taught how to give shots to the animals using chicken parts.

A USDA grader brought a slaughtered lamb and showed the kids what the parts look like and where they belonged on the lamb.

The day was filled with fun and educational activities not only for the kids, but for the adults as well.

Ken Pruitt has volunteered at the camp since its inception.

“I do it for fun. I show kids how to do something. That is important to me,” he said.

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