By: Ryan Métivier
Photos Courtesy of Sharon Grose Photography
When you think about where to find a sheep club, Waterloo Region, a typically more urban area, may not be your first thought. But in fact, lead by volunteer Susan Martin, Waterloo 4-H boasts a tremendously successful club with 28 members and more always looking to join. Members currently fall between the ages of 9-18.
Established roughly six years ago, Susan started the club shortly after selling her cows, but still wanting to be involved with livestock. She started the club with three sheep and about 10-12 members. What’s remarkable about the club is that the majority of members typically join with limited or no livestock or agricultural experience.
That hasn’t stopped the club from continuing to attract new and returning members who are eager to learn everything from the basics, to how to judge, what to wash their lamb with, what halter to use to train their lamb, what to feed your lamb, how and why to use a foot bath for biosecurity and deciphering samples of hay.
“I joined Waterloo 4-H Sheep Club because after showing dairy calves for two years, I wanted to see what a different type of showing was like,” says Sheep Club member Kristen. “I have enjoyed the training the most. Although I enjoy learning more about the sheep, I like the hands-on element of training more. I have learned more about the different breeds of sheep, and how their wool is used to make yarn,” she says.
President of the 2015 Sheep Club, Susan says Kristen is a born leader who’s very willing to help less experienced youth with their lambs.
“Kristen has strong leadership skills which she’s learned through the 4-H program,” says Susan. She steps in and helps wherever needed and is a wonderful young adult.”
When teaching judging, Susan wants her members to know that whatever they decide is alright because that was what they decided and their opinion matters. Giving reasons, and giving good reasons when defending their cases is always the goal.
“”When you go into a job setting or school setting and you’re applying for a scholarship or you’re in a job interview, all of this stuff that you’re learning in 4-H you’re going to take with you,” she says.
Run by Susan, six other leaders and one helper, the club continues to grow mainly through word of mouth. With no place set up in Waterloo County to show sheep, the club has taken it upon themselves to create their own show. This hasn’t come without challenges, as minus a local fair board, the club has been required to source out their own venue, sound system, seating and ribbons – all of the things that would typically be organized by a local fair board.
Advertising and fundraising is also required and members are asked to participate in letter campaigns to local businesses to learn how to source funds for the club. They will also be organizing a potluck prior to their upcoming show on September 13.
Whereas the pressure often rises in other higher levels of showing, Susan aims to keep the Waterloo Sheep Club very family oriented and encourage everyone to work together.
“In our sheep club we promote friendships and it’s a healthy competition, where we want everyone to be comfortable.”
2015 Vice Chair Alec, whom Susan says has grown a lot this past year and gained many new leadership skills, joined the Waterloo 4-H Sheep Club because he enjoys working with and showing animals.
“More than anything else, Sheep Club has taught me how to work around large animals,” he says. “I particularly like to show my sheep at the end of the club. It’s always nice to see all your hard work pay off.”
The club has seen many success stories, both of the personal and competitive variety. Numerous members have joined the club shy and quite, and grown to become confident and self-assured through the club meetings, showing and working with other members.
It’s at these moments when Susan says she feels like, “My job is done”.
The club has also seen one of their younger first-time members have great success in showmanship at the Sheep Expo.
As the club looks forward, Susan hopes to source out more farms in addition to the current three, as she’s currently training nine kids at her house. She will though, never be one to turn away a member if they can’t find a lamb. With more farms, she hopes to introduce new members, as well as continuing to teach returning members everything they need to know to train their lambs in Waterloo Region.