4-H llama handlers were up early Thursday morning and their animals were brushed and clean and waiting at the entrance to the main show ring at the Allen County Fair on Carroll Road for the start of the showmanship competition. At stake was the championship in junior, intermediate and senior classes followed by a showdown among the three champions for the overall llama showmanship title.
Senior class winner Elizabeth Lawrence and Trooper swept the overall showman title with intermediate champ Taylor Pierce and Dream Believer in second and Brenna Bowie and Chantell, champion of the junior class, in third.
Lawrence's experience showing Trooper for the past five years paid off. In addition to participating in the 4-H llama performance classes this morning, her next big event is at noon Sunday when she'll go up against the champion cows, beef, sheep, pigs and horses to determine who is the 4-H Showman of Showmen.
The Bishop Dwenger High School junior has been in 4-H eight years and showing llamas the last five. She says Trooper has a great personality, is very curious and is easy to work with. She leases him from the Schlemmer Critterhaven Farm, starts working with him in the spring to be ready for the Allen County Fair and visits him several times throughout the winter.
According to 15-year judge Tami Cash of Manitou Beach, Mich., showmanship is more than just leading the animal into the ring. “I look to see if the two are working as a team and if the handler is presenting the animal in the best position with its four feet squarely under its body. I don't particularly like to be nose-to-nose with the llama and expect the handler to stop the animal at arms-length from me. Handlers should maintain eye contact with the judge, follow the quadrant rules specifying where the handler stands in reference to the judge, and of course the animal should be groomed and clean. It's important they know their 4-H book because I like to ask them about husbandry and learn if they are familiar with the llama's body parts.” Cash has owned and worked with llamas since the early 1990s.
Judging in the noisy poultry barn where roosters are crowing, turkeys gobbling, ducks quacking and chickens clucking is another story. Judge Jonathan Patterson of Bluffton, a former 4-H poultry raiser, is used to the cacophony. He judges six to 10 fairs a year and still competes nationally in open shows. In judging showmanship Thursday he was specifically looking to see how well the youngster handles the bird, knows the history of the breed and can answer questions about husbandry and anatomy. “I want to find out what the kids knows about their bird.” Patterson has been judging seven years and is working on getting his license through the American Poultry Association.
The 4-H animal contact area was a hit, especially the baby chick cage. A pony, goats and 2-week-old piglets were a big draw. The contact tent will be open until 10 p.m. today and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday.