It was 8 a.m. on Wednesday. While most others may have still been sleeping, kids were wrangling with lambs as the animals moaned in protest during the Chaves County 4-H and FFA Fair Market Lamb showing.
In their aggravation, the lambs occasionally jumped, and it was only with quick reflexes and experienced hands that the kids avoided a human-lamb head butt.
But the struggle was worth it in the end for Jessica Burson, 19, who was named Grand Champion. Burson has been in FFA six years and 4-H since age 8, but even before that, grew up with the program because of her older brother, Cole Burson, 22, who was involved first. Her parents, Cody and Cheri Burson, have had many years in the program because of their kids, but after this year it will end. Burson took to the arena for the last time.
“I’ve been so fortunate to win many times, and it’s great to end like this,” she said.
Through her years of experience she has showed every animal except chickens, but she is particularly fond of lamb because her family raises them, so she gets to watch them grow up. But this is also a slight challenge when it comes to avoiding attachment, so she never names the lambs. This year’s winner was simply 175: the breeder’s number.
Her favorite part about being involved in 4-H her whole life is the chance to help younger kids who show.
“I realize I am a role model for these kids,” she said. “And it’s helped me grow into the young adult I am. And I’m thankful to God who allowed me to do something I love for so long.”
Contrasting Burson’s extended involvement, the Reserve Grand Champion was Chasen Richardson, 14, son of J.D. and Cherri Richardson, a young man who will join FFA for next year. But he has still had experience in the arena, showing for 5 or 6 years and winning Reserve Grand Champion for both pig and lamb a few years ago.
This year’s second place, a 6-month-old Wether named Dum-Dum, weighed in at 135 pounds, which Richardson said was average for a heavy weight.
“Sheep are more fun because you have to hand feed them and walk them,” he said, giving the idea that lambs are generally more work than swine. “Pigs, you just feed them and make sure they walk.”
Both winners represented Roswell, but both would like to leave. Richardson would like to go to San Diego and Burson, currently attending ENMU-R, will receive a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and then would like to pursue a medical career as a dermatologist.