WINDSOR, Maine — Too often winning takes priority over camaraderie in competitions involving school-age children.

On May 18, prior to the youth sheep show, at the 2019 Northeast Livestock Expo, held at the Windsor Fairgrounds, Isabelle Baker, 9, of Rockport, patted a spring lamb being sheared and groomed by Adam Eaton, 14, of Hope. Isabelle said she was “just helping” Adam prepare for the spring lamb junior division competition.

“I’m showing a sheep, a cow and a lamb — one of the small ones,” Isabelle said. “We’re both in the 4-H at Aldermere Farm. My Mom, (Heidi Baker), is the general manager of the farm.”

At the entrance of the sheep barn, Amanda and James Davis of Silver Valley Farm, a 60-cow dairy operation located in Farmington, watched while their daughter, Samantha, 11, and,William “Billy” Coutts, sheared and groomed her spring lamb. Samantha’s younger brother and sister were also showing animals at the Expo.

“James is 9,” his father said. “He shows dairy, sheep, pigs and poultry. Sophia is 7 and she shows dairy and sheep, and she will show beef when she is old enough, she’s not quite old enough yet.”

Coutts, who owns Coutts’ Farm in Gardiner, enjoys sharing his knowledge and skills accrued during a lifetime on the farm. In 1971, he first volunteered as a mentor with the 4-H Club.

“We sell market lamb ewes,” Coutts said. “That’s how I got hooked up with this girl here — I sold her lambs. So I’m helping her get ready to show by showing her some pointers about how to get things done and maybe do a little bit for them to do it better. I started out in 4-H when I was 9-years-old and I’m 71, now.”

Farming “gets into your blood,” Coutts said. “You do it because you like it. Working with the young kids is really important.”

In Samantha’s case, her family are dairy farmers, Coutts said, who do not have experience working with sheep. “So I can help her do better at shows. It’s one thing I can do to try to pass on the knowledge to younger generations. And, hopefully, they’ll do the same thing.”

Alden Hallett, 16, who placed first in the senior division of the ABGA boer goat show, picked up many pointers from the boer goat judge, Patrick Aliff, of Bluefield, West Virginia, the co-owner of Chestnut Springs Farms. Alden was surprised when Aliff asked him to judge the boer goat junior division.

“I did not know that was coming,” said Alden, who lives with his parents, Allen and Sherrill, on Farmstead Fields in Chelsea. “I’ve shown here four years. I found (judging) interesting.”

Alden said that he might volunteer to be a judge in the future, but his current education and career plans do not involve farming or agriculture.

“I’d like to teach college history,” Alden said. “My sister and niece got me into this — they gave me my first goat. It’s sort of a fun hobby.”

For the kids, Saturday was not “all work and no play.” As a reward for all the morning’s hard work grooming their animals for the various shows, kids and animals had a chance to have fun and be creative for the “Costume Contest with Animal” at noon.

Brothers Ryan and Ben Tammaro, of Down Home Farm, a beef farm in Cape Elizabeth, faced the challenge of winning the costume contest for the third consecutive year, Nicole Tammaro, their mother, explained. At first glance, their cow, Abby, looked like a cross between a black angus and blue-striped zebra — actually, Abby, an Australian Lowline, was sporting prison stripes.

Dressed as police officers, Ryan and Ben escorted Abby to jail to serve her sentence for “grain store theft.” The costume contest judges were suitably impressed with the Tammaro brothers’ premise and awarded them a third consecutive first place ribbon.

On May 16, the opening day of the Expo, 65 buses, loaded with about 2,500 kindergarten through sixth graders, from about 30-area schools, arrived for Kids Day. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and Expo organizers provided more than 50 agricultural educational events, which were presented by area farmers and other agriculture-related industries. The students had the opportunity to make cheese and to help provide care for alpacas, emus, sheep and other animals.

For more information on the Northeast Livestock Expo, visit www.northeastlivestockexpo.com.

Jeffrey B. Roth is a freelance writer in Maine.