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San Joaquin Fair teaches real-world agriculture to kids

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Posted: Sunday, June 22, 2003 10:00 pm

After months of proper diets, grooming and appropriate exercise, Blue, a lamb raised in Vernalis, will soon finally meet its fate: The butcher block.

The Suffolk/Hampshire cross, a Supreme Champion and 4-H Grand Champion at the San Joaquin Fair this year, will be among the more than 500 animals sold at the annual Junior Livestock Auction on Saturday.

Blue's owner, Natalia Fisk, 14, a member of the New Jerusalem 4-H Club, will reinvest the money in another lamb next year, said her mom, Coleena Fisk.

She and her younger sister, Michaela, 11, who will also sell a lamb Saturday, had to set up a feeding and exercise schedule and keep track of their expenses, Coleena Fisk said.

"They learn a lot," she said.

Eunita Boatman, the fair's livestock superintendent, said the goal is to teach real-world agriculture, ethics, and what is practical and what is not.

Denise Pombo's children, Kelsie, 12, and Damon, 10, both members of the Banta 4-H Club, showed steers at this year's fair. Average costs for raising a steer are between $600 and $1,500, she said, though some animals may cost as much as several thousand dollars. As much as $750 is spent on hay and feed, and several hundred dollars also go for showmanship equipment, including show halters and sticks, she and others said.

Kristy Codde, 14, of Tracy, said she got $5 a pound for her 139-pound lamb last year and felt she did pretty well. Raising a lamb cost about $300, her mother said.

Showing livestock may also teach perseverance.

For months, David Shoup, 9, who lives near Banta, fed, washed and exercised his steer, which will be sold at auction Saturday.

Caring for the steer, whose name, DJ, stands for David's Job, was one thing. Showing the 1,095-pound animal at the fair was another.

"He fought and fought," said 70-pound David, who finished seventh in showmanship, out of a field of eight.

But he did not quit, his grandmother, Janice Fenton, said with a pride.

"He stayed right with it," she said.

Raising a steer for the fair also takes longer than other animals, Denise Pombo said. While it takes about two months to raise a pig, she said children raise steers for as long as 10 months.

Jeremy Hensley, 14, a Banta 4-H'er, will not hesitate to sell Bob, his 120-pound lamb, on Saturday, possibly for as much as $4.50 a pound. He will have no second thoughts, even if Bob is "cool."

"He likes me a lot," said Jeremy, as Bob stood quietly near him.

Boatman said every fair is a new experience. This year, for instance, she said, there are more Boer goats.

Because of the Newcastle virus, no real chickens are shown at the county fair.

But to keep the interest going, fair officials organized a competition with paper chickens, but a real chicken judge.

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