Routt County Fair sheep show displays future of agriculture |

Routt County Fair sheep show displays future of agriculture

Routt County Fair sheep show contestants walk their sheep around the arena to be judged on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Routt County Fair sheep show was so much more than just showing off some beautiful sheep. It was an opportunity to show the people of Routt County that the future for agriculture is bright. 

The show’s judge, Jason Miller, took some time in the middle of the competition to give some of the participants a chance to express to the crowd what the future of agriculture means to them.

Many mentioned the Future Farmers of America creed. The opening statement of that creed reads, “I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds — achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy come to us from the struggles of former years.”

This creed resonated with these competitors as they spoke about agriculture with adoration and devotion to the craft.

“When you include the youth in this and they’ve worked hard, they’ve fed them, they’ve taken care of them, they treat them better than they treat themselves 90% of the time,” Miller said. “The passion that they have for taking care of those animals comes out in the show.”

Kimberly Gray, a 13-year-old from Hayden, earned her title as the Grand Champion of the sheep show with one of the most magnificent sheep Miller said he has ever judged. 

Gray explained that a lot goes into getting sheep ready and preparing them for show.

Kimberly Gray celebrates her Grand Champion sheep with the sheep show’s judge, Jason Miller, at the Routt County Fair on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“Usually, just get up early, feed them and then you have to do their legs every day to make them grow their shag,” Gray said. “Then just kind of make them like you so they’ll show for you.”

Many sheep were stubborn and made it difficult on the competitors to present the sheep in the best way possible.

Gray said that there is a very specific technique to showing a sheep and maximizing its performance. 

“Their front legs, you want square, and their back legs, you want them at a 90 degree angle, and you just want to stand in front of them and have your knee at their shoulder so you don’t choke them,” Gray said. 

Routt County Fair sheep show contestants present their sheep in front of a judge on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The sheep are judged on multiple criteria, including shape, structure and beauty. 

The most important thing judges look for are the sheep with the most quality meat. In order to have quality meat, they must also have good structural balance and structural correctness. 

“They need to be able to carry themselves and gain weight the way that you need them to because it’s an industry, it’s a business from the time they’re born until the time they take them to slaughter to feed people,” Miller said.

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From a beauty perspective, judges were interested in size and the power they possess. It may not be the most important aspect of judging, but it can differentiate one sheep from another. 

Toward the end of the event, Miller took the microphone and explained to the competitors how proud he was of them. He wanted them to understand that they are extremely important, and the world will soon rely on their agricultural abilities.

Miller ended his speech directing attention to the children and saying,
“Love your dreams, chase your passions, be the future of agriculture.”

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