We will be following along as Clara Domin, a 10th grader from Freeport, raises a lamb as part of 4-H’s Market Animal Program. Her family has a long tradition of raising market animals through 4-H, as evidenced by their “wall of fame,” which includes names of their market animals through the years.
The day we visited was wet and muddy. Clara, along with her neighbors Molly and Isla, did after school chores – feeding and watering all the sheep (five lambs, three ewes, and one yearling) and cleaning their pens. George, the market lamb, was nearly ready to be weaned from his mother. Clara does chores twice a day – early in the morning and after school. She tries to prep as much as she can in the evening for the morning.
Clara will have her market lamb until the beginning of October, when he goes to auction. She will show him at several fairs before then.
Sadee Mehuren, a 4-H youth development professional with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, said the goal of the Market Animal Program, which has been in existence for several decades, is for 4-H students to “prepare animals to be the best they can be and making sure they are as healthy as possible.”
Mehuren acknowledged the program “is a culmination of all life skills taught in 4-H,” including work ethic, patience, and marketing and business skills. She also said those who participate build a bond with their animals, but are prepared for the animal eventually being sold.
“It’s a reality of the food system we live in,” Mehuren said. “It is tough, but there is a satisfaction that you have made it to the end and hit your goal.”
For more information about 4-H in Maine and to volunteer, go to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s 4-H website.