Mattie Nicholson is only in her second year to show lambs at the County Fair. She’s 10 years old, attends Brandon Elementary and is a member of the 4-H Horse Club. Mattie is carrying on family tradition, following in her older sisters’ footsteps.
Her older siblings, Katie and Morgan are now both out of college but they showed sheep every year they were eligible at the Angelina County Fair. In total, the Nicholson family has raised 26 lambs over the years. Mattie named this year’s lamb “Bullet”.
Last year was Mattie’s first official year to participate in the Youth Fair. While she had shown as a Pee Wee, she watched and learned from her sisters just how to compete. As junior exhibitor, she had a very successful start, winning the Jr. Showmanship Award and even placed first with her Strawberry Bread in the cooking division.
She and her parents, Pat and Denise Nicholson, purchased the lamb last July. They chose a medium-wool, meat lamb. Meat or “mutton-type” sheep produce wool that is mostly medium in length (hence the name), but are raised more for their meat and carcass qualities. Medium wool sheep account for about 15 percent of the world’s sheep population. The most popular meat breeds in the U.S. are Dorset, Hampshire, Southdown, and Suffolk.
The lamb division is the smallest but perhaps one of the oldest livestock divisions at the Angelina County Fair. The sponsors for the lamb division are Chandler, Mathis and Zivley Attorneys at Law.
Lambs for this year’s fair were validated to show proof of ownership on Saturday, December 6 at the Central High School Barn. Entry fees were paid that day and marks the official beginning of the feeding and growing period for lamb exhibitors competing in the county fair. This division is open to un-bred ewe (female) and wether (castrated male) lambs.
Sheep are washed as needed and have had their wool sheared prior to the show. With the recent cold weather, the Nicholson family has kept him in warmer enclosed stalls. Lamb blankets are also used during this season.
At least five days a week Mattie exercises and walks her lamb for a minimum of 30 minutes. In addition she will practice setting their lambs up as they would for the show. Sheep are “braced” to fully exhibit their muscularity.
Judging the lamb show is a very hands-on evaluation. The judge will feel for the width down the back (loin) and the leg for expression of muscling. For Mattie to place high enough to make the auction, their sheep will need to have the right level of condition (read “fat cover”) and have plenty of dimension down their loin top and in the leg.
Lambs cannot weigh more than 160 lbs. on the day of the show. All lambs in excess of the weight limit will be disqualified. Lambs will be divided by weight into four classes (light, medium light, medium heavy and heavy). Of the 13 entries, 10 will make the auction this year.
Mattie and the other exhibitors in the lamb show will compete on Thursday, Feb. 26 at 2 pm in the main arena of the Exposition Center.
For more information about this year’s Fair, go to www.angelinacountyfair.com.
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is email@example.com.