Flocks of sheep and 4-H’ers are all set for this week’s fair
There was an abundance of activity at the Wagner family farm in Tomah Sunday morning as Dan Wagner’s flock of 4-H’ers were hard at work preparing their sheep for the Monroe County Fair slated to begin this week.
Wagner, who the kids lovingly refer to as Danny, has been breeding and raising sheep the majority of his life. About five years ago, Wagner and his son, Devan, began mentoring local 4-H kids teaching them how to raise and care for the sheep and allowing them to show them at the county fair.
According to Wagner, Devan, who used to show the sheep as well, won’t be showing this year. He still comes to the farm to teach the kids how to train their sheep, how to sheer the sheep and gives them pointers on showing.
In the past, Wagner usually only had two to three kids coming out to his family’s farm to help with chores, but this year he is mentoring nine kids.
Wagner, a very humble man, gives all of the credit to the kids. “They help me way more than I help them,” he said.
The kids come out to the farm three days each week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to help Wagner pitch hay, clean pens and do all of the work with the lambs in order to get them ready to show.
In order to raise sheep, Wagner says the animals need to be shown and the group has already been to four Jackpot Shows this summer. At the county fair, the kids take the sheep to market and if they make a sale, they keep the money for their college education.
On average, Wagner usually has between 40 and 50 sheep on the farm in total; the sale of those that aren’t shown at the fair makes the program possible. He says he currently has about half a dozen regular clients, but is always looking for more to support the kids.
Each kid is assigned to oversee the care of two sheep each, with the exception of Kendyl Hericks who will show three sheep this year. According to Wagner, Hericks is the leader of the group and has been helping out for the past two years now.
“They’re all animal lovers and it’s all about teaching them how to take care of them,” Wagner said, adding most of the kids also show pigs, horses, llamas, dairy and beef cattle
Hericks and her younger brother, Jeron, both show pigs, sheep and dairy. Jeron says his favorites to show are sheep and he loves helping out at the farm.
“The sheep are by far his favorite,” mom Keri Hericks agreed, adding her appreciation of Wagner’s help. “Danny makes all of this possible. I think sometimes he enjoys it even more than the kids.”
But for some kids, without the use of Wagner’s sheep they wouldn’t be able to show livestock at all as they don’t reside on farms. No one falls behind on Wagner’s watch however; all of the kids help each other to get the chores done.
“These kids are awesome and it’s all about teamwork,” he said, adding that after spending so much time together throughout the year they become more like a family. “We just have a good time and I trust every single one of these kids.”
The sheep show will take place this coming Thursday at 4 p.m. during the fair at Recreation Park in Tomah.