Hallie Lauchland, 13, stood in her front yard on Turner Road, holding a purple barber’s clippers in one hand while she steadied a 3-month-old Boer goat with the other. Peanut the goat was locked into a steel livestock stand waiting for his first haircut.
Lauchland flipped the switch and deftly clipped away a line of white fur off the animal’s side, from his belly to his back. This was her seventh goat trimming of the day. Starting at 8 a.m., Lauchland spent hours in the barn clipping this year’s herd of goats before shampooing them with Pantene and drying them with a shop blower.
“This is my business,” she said, eyeing Peanut’s back legs before taking another swipe with the clippers. The day of her biggest promotion and sale of the year is drawing close. It’s time to pretty up the stock.
Lauchland, president of Alpine Victor 4-H, is one of dozens of 4-H club members preparing their goats, sheep, turkeys and pigs for the San Joaquin Fair this month. Starting this weekend, they will dress sharply and show off their animals’ strong breeding stock or high muscle mass to win ribbons and prize money.
But even the animals that don’t impress the judges can bring in money on the auction block at the end of the week.
Lauchland shows goats in the breeding and market classes. Most of the breeders she’ll keep for next year’s kids, but the market animals and a few breeders are sold.
Her favorite division is showmanship, where the judges look at the skills of the handler, not the animals. She won in the showmanship category for her goats last year, and competed in master showmanship. That’s where competitors show seven different species to find out who is truly the most skilled. Friends and fellow 4-H members spent the week teaching her how to show turkeys, pigs, and the rest of the animals used in the masters.
“I think I learned about a species a day,” she said. “It’s all challenging. Every goat, every animal has different characteristics.”
The prize money and proceeds from animal sales go straight into a bank account for college, except for what Lauchland needs for feed, new goat stock or other supplies.
“All my birthday money goes to goats,” she said.
It’s a family trait to get wrapped up in livestock.
Her brother, 15-year-old Cole Lauchland, clipped and cleaned a thousand-pound black steer last week. The Lodi teen has raised cattle for the fair since he was a 9-year-old 4-H member and couldn’t see over the top of the animal.
“He had to look under the steer to make eye contact with the judges,” said his mom, Tamara Lauchland.
But today, Cole Lauchland can tow the animals across the yard — with a little stubbornness — and raises them with Lodi High’s FFA club.
His current steer consumed piles of grain and hay for 16 months, gaining three pounds every day. For months, he practiced taking the steer through its paces, standing with sturdy legs and feet spread to show off muscles with for his potential judges.
“The steers are harder to teach,” said Matt Lauchland, the pair’s dad. “He was drug around on his belly and back in the dirt for a while.”
Those months of training and feeding are worth it. At auction, the animals can go for thousands of dollars, especially if the kids have done their marketing homework.
Jacob Hayn, 11, sent out marketing letters to businesses all over Lodi advertising his turkey, Dianne, and pig, Pancake. He’s a third-year member of Harmony Grove 4-H, and says the turkeys are fun to raise because they run all over the yard.
“It’s a little weird having to flip a turkey,” he said. “You have to hold it upside-down so the audience can see its wings and breasts.”
The now 21-pound bird started as a $2 chick 60 days ago.
The Lockeford resident says his experience in 4-H has convinced him to consider a career as a rancher.
And yes, sometimes the kids do get a little attached to the animals. Especially the first year, it’s hard to make that sale knowing the animal is going to the slaughterhouse.
“This gives us a sense of responsibility,” said Cole Lauchland. “You know it’s going somewhere for food.”
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.