Almost every morning at 8:30 a.m. 9-year-old Cailey Barney, of rural Tampa is out feeding and watering her sheep.
“I really like them because when you have nothing to do, you can always go out and play with your sheep,” she said. “It’s like always having a friend.”
On Saturday, Cailey and her current good sheep friend, Oreo, won a championship belt buckle in junior showmanship at the Hillsboro Meat Goat and Sheep Jackpot Show at the Marion County Fairgrounds.
“I’ve been showing since I was 3 or 4,” Barney said. “But this was the first time I ever won a belt buckle! I was ecstatic! I was really, really happy.”
Two of Cailey’s five older siblings also participated in the Hillsboro show, and though this was Cailey’s first championship belt buckle, it was not the family’s first outing this show season. Along with brothers Zach, 12, and Jared, 16, and parents Gene and Denise, Cailey and her six sheep already competed in five other shows this year.
“It’s just something we enjoy doing as a family,” mother Denise said. “We’ve decided this is something we are going to do this year and have many more shows planned for the rest of the summer.”
Cailey said there was a lot to remember in sheep showmanship, and a lot she learned through the years watching her four brothers and one older sister in sheep showmanship competitions.
“You should never ever hit your lamb to make it behave,” she said. “You always need to stay calm and just keep making sure the feet are placed right.”
She said a show lamb’s feet should never be too far apart in the front and not to far back in the rear.
“If you set the back feet too far back, then it looks like the lamb is breaking in the topline,” she said. “But sometimes you want them to stretch out, so you just have to keep checking the legs.”
Barney also said she spent a lot of time working with her lambs at home, teaching them how to brace, so in the show ring they could show off their muscles to the best advantage.
“We work them almost every evening after dark when it gets cooler,” she said. “We put them up on the sheep stand or on the edge of the porch and push against them. Since they don’t want to fall off, they push back and that makes their muscles bigger. They get used to pushing against us, so in the show ring, even if there is no edge for them to worry about, they push back when I push against them.”
Barney has a few other tricks to make her lambs behave in the ring.
“Sometimes I bend down and scratch their belly, just to let them know they are doing a good job,” she said. “They like that.”
Barney also keeps a wet towel handy to place across her lamb’s back whenever she is not in the show ring. This keeps him cool and happy, and helps show his muscles off when he goes back into the ring.
Barney said the hardest part of showing sheep was lifting them up when they got bigger and setting their feet down right.
She and her siblings own 11 sheep and plan to sell three wethers after the Junior Livestock show in fall. They will also participate in the Kansas State Fair with their sheep in September.
“This is the first year I will be old enough to show at the state fair,” she said. “I can’t wait for that!”
Barney said she enjoyed just about everything when it came to raising and showing sheep, except making decisions on which one to sell.
“We have to sell one of our ewe lambs at the Marion County Fair, but I don’t know which one yet,” she said. “I’ll probably be a little bit sad then.”
Barney and her siblings are homeschooled, so raising and working with farm animals are a big part of their lives. They also raise pigs and chickens and are members of the Tampa Triple-T’s 4-H club.
“I just really like the sheep,” Cailey said. “They are a lot of fun.”