Taking their show on the road

Raising sheep and showing them is a family affair for many students in 4-H or FFA programs in Kerr County each year. Two local 4-H members distinguished themselves and their animals last week at the Junior Breeding Show at the annual Fort Worth Stock Show. For Hayden and Paige Dittmar the event was just another opportunity to practice their showmanship skills and show off their prized Suffolk rams and ewes.

When the event ended they walked away with a lot of ribbons and memories, plus a new ram, Cowtown, who was born to one of their ewes during the show. Hayden’s ram, Amos, was awarded the Grand Champion ribbon in the aged category and she also garnered a first-place ribbon with her Suffolk ram in the lamb class.

Paige had the Reserve Champion Suffolk Ram. Other entries that were Suffolk ewes that two Kerr County students entered also placed in various categories at the show.  Both girls also had similar awards at the Kerr County Stock Show and the Hill Country Grand Slam Show in January with Amos and other entries. This was the fourth year they had entries at the Fort Worth show and had previously had class winners but no grand champion.

Paige is student at Starkey Elementary and Hayden attends Hal Peterson Middle School.

“Raising breeding sheep is kind of different from raising market lambs because breeding sheep are raised from babies and are shown in multiple shows depending on their teeth or age,” said Trey Dittmar, the girls’ father. The categories for judging include lamb, yearling and aged (adult) lambs.

“I just love animals. I help my dad and learn many things and I did from my grandfather also,” said Hayden. Her grandfather was the late Dr. Robert Dittmar of Kerrville, a well-known wildlife expert who was sadly lost in a helicopter crash in the Big Bend several years ago.

The sheep will go on to be entered at the San Antonio Stock Show beginning this upcoming weekend.

The two girls are the fourth generation of the Dittmar family involved in the sheep-raising industry.

Trey’s grandfather originally owned a large herd of Rambouillet sheep on his ranch in Gillespie County. The Rambouillet is a breed of sheep developed in Spain in the late 1700s and is good for both meet and wool production.

His father, Dr. Dittmar, grew up breeding and showing sheep and Trey followed in his footsteps at local and statewide stock shows when he was young. Eventually the large herd was sold when coyotes decimated the heard after his grandfather died.

“I wanted to give my daughters a little taste of the heritage of the production of sheep, to give them the opportunity to experience that part of our family’s ranching history,” Dittmar said.

While in Fort Worth one of Dittmar’s Suffolk ewes gave birth to a new lamb for the girls to add to their small herd that they now have on family property near their home.

Their mom, Rebecca Dittmar, said, “Hopefully he will be able to contribute to the herd and bring home awards in the future, and breed us some award-winning babies too.”

Hayden has been involved in 4-H since first grade and Paige became involved when she reached third grade this year.  Hayden also participates in the food show and food challenge competition programs through 4-H, plus is on the wool and mohair judging team and the swine judging team.

Paige is also involved in the food show and food challenge programs this year. The food show is individual and the food challenge is a team competition.

“The 4-H program develops confidence, public speaking skills and leadership and gives the kids an opportunity to give back to their community through community service projects, and teaches personal responsibility,” Rebecca Dittmar said.

She said being in 4-H requires dedication because it’s a year-long commitment, year-after-year, and, as a former participant in 4-H programing herself, she believes it is a valuable step for children toward success as an adult.

4-H is a nationwide youth organization that promotes lifelong learning and leadership through clubs, projects and other activities. The enrollment period is Sept. 1 through Aug. 31. The annual membership fee is $20. There are four levels of membership in 4-H. Clover Kids are first and second graders, Junior members are third through fifth graders, Intermediate members are in sixth through eighth grade and Senior members are grades nine through 12.

Programs included in the 4-H curriculum in addition to showing and raising animals, food and nutrition and wool and mohair judging, include fashion and interior design, photography, shooting sports, veterinary science, leadership and robotics.

Approximately 65,000 youth in Texas participate in 4-H programs in cities, suburbs, small towns and in rural areas each year according to the organization’s website.

The four-leaf clover emblem which is the symbol of 4-H was introduced around 1907 or 1908 and each clover has a designation. Originally only head, heart and hands were included in the symbol, but in 1911 health was added as the fourth clover.  The 4-H motto is “to make the best better.”

Kerr County has four community 4-H clubs and two project clubs. All students in the age groups listed earlier in the article are eligible to join the local 4-H programs. The 4-H program is sponsored by the Texas A&M Agri-Life Extension Service. The Kerr County 4-H agent is Jennifer Smith and her office is located at 3655 Hwy. 27 adjacent to the Hill Country Youth Event Center.

For information on enrolling a student in 4-H, contact Smith at (830) 257-6568 or go online to: kerr.agrilife.org or kerr-tx@tamu. edu.


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