Showing sheep is a lot of work
The Soyez children — Calleigh, 12; Wyatt, 10; and Hitch, 9 — get up at 5:45 a.m. every morning to fulfill their responsibilities in caring for their sheep and lambs. They go through the same routine after school.
“We feed the sheep before we eat,” Calleigh said.
She is a seventh-grader and plays volleyball at Marion Middle School, so she sometimes doesn’t get home until 6 p.m. and works late to get her chores done.
The children are members of Happy Hustlers 4-H Club.
Each child has a showmanship lamb, a market lamb, and a breeding ewe.
The sheep are fed a special diet that includes a mixture of various pellets. Electrolytes are added to their water.
“Alfalfa is their dessert,” Hitch said.
The children clean their pens every day.
Their mother, Megan Brown, helps with extra things such as weighing the sheep every week and running them on a treadmill. Water buckets and feed troughs are bleached to prevent disease.
Each sheep has its own inside pen, but they are turned out into an open area for a while every day. They are muzzled while outside so as not to chew on things or eat something that might give them a bad stomach.
Two or three times a week, the children take their sheep into a working lot and teach them how to stand, walk, and hold their heads.
Some of the show lambs are raised and some are purchased in April each year.
Each sheep or lamb has a name. Calleigh’s favorites are Sponge Bob and Joker, Wyatt’s favorites are Larson and Rafiela, and Hitch’s favorites are Waffles and Gunner.
Their names are on tags above their pens, but Brown says they go by numbers at shows to limit the children’s attachment to them.
They did acknowledge that it is hard to see them sold.
“We’ve had a lot of tears the past years,” Wyatt said.
They all spoke highly of their grandfather, Tim Brown, who often accompanies them to shows and helps them pick out which lambs to buy.
“He knows a lot,” Wyatt said.
Award banners they have won are proudly displayed on a wall in their living room.
Calleigh has won five buckles. She was the overall winner this year at Marion County Fair. She had the grand champion market lamb and supreme breeding ewe. Wyatt was champion junior showman and Hitch was reserve champion junior showman.
“I like showing sheep because of my family,” Hitch said. “I can get bragging rights.”
Wyatt had mixed feelings about going to shows.
“Sometimes I have to miss other things I would like to do, like games or visiting cousins and uncles,” he said.
“I always get attached to wethers,” Calleigh said. “They work best with me. I like to show sheep because you get to brag. At family holiday gatherings, conversations always end in sheep.”
She said she has made many friends while showing. She has a Kansas City pen pal and still talks to others she got to know during shows.
Hitch said Waffles sometimes doesn’t cooperate at home, but at shows she is “perfect.”
The children and their family go to six or more shows a year with a trailer and camper. Calleigh has been showing for four years, Wyatt three, and Hitch two, ever since they were old enough to join 4-H.
They have special show jeans and wear belts.
Calleigh and her grandfather were planning a trip to a show in Nebraska this weekend.
“We’re leaving Thursday and coming home Saturday,” she said. “I’m going to miss a volleyball game.”
The boys were preparing for the Kansas Junior Livestock Show Oct. 5 and 6 in Hutchinson.
Last modified Sept. 26, 2018