It was very nearly the Brady McComb show Thursday afternoon, as he captured the grand championship in market lambs and breeding sheep, was named champion senior sheep showman, and then came back to sweep the goat show as well. He had the champion market goat and grand and reserve championship in the breeding division. Payje Orler edged him out as the top senior goat showman.
The 15-year-old member of the Southwest 4-H Club also exhibits beef animals and rode in horse performance classes early in the week. He has the start of his own sheep flock, with six ewes and he also owns six female goats.
He appeared unflappable in the showring, presenting whatever animal he is showing in its best light to the judge. Bill Toews of Burrton commented that McComb brought in each animal as if he was proud of it. He also noted that sheep are the most difficult species to show correctly.
The key is working with the animals every day, McComb said, for at least 10 minutes per animal and sometimes longer. With 10 animals in his show string, that adds up to a lot of time, and he also fits in basketball practice at Skyline School.
In addition to the Pratt County Fair, he participates in several spring shows and will take some animals to the Kansas State Fair, the Kansas Junior Livestock Show and the American Royal.
McComb is a repeat winner in the sheep division: he showed the grand champion market lamb in 2012 and won his division in showmanship for both sheep and goats. He stepped up a notch from his 2012 reserve grand championship for meat goats.
Kami McComb was a notable presence at Thursday's show as well, earning champion intermediate showmanship honors for both sheep and goats and picking up a handful of blue ribbons.
Two younger McComb children were among the open class showmen.
"The good news is Pratt County will continue to have a sheep show," Toews said of the eight youngsters leading sheep.
Toews works as an animal feed nutritionist and is proud of the fact that his immediate family has 95 years in 4-H. He said he judges everything but horses; he can judge horses, but chooses not to.
He looked over 39 sheep and 36 goats Thursday afternoon, and then judged the 4-H members on their showmanship skills.
The separate classes were a formality and a tradition: the showmen who got the championship ribbons were those who had showed their animals well all day; their performance in the showmanship class did little to alter his opinions.
The intermediates, ages 11-13 fit the size of their animals well, he said. Some of the seniors are too tall for showing to be comfortable, and the animals outweigh the junior division showmen, putting them at a disadvantage. He encouraged them to learn where the "brakes" are — a spot in the shoulder that when pressed, will stop the animal.
Toews especially praised the meat goat project as "an awesome kids' project."
Awarding the purple ribbon for senior goat showmanship seemed to present the greatest difficulty of the day. Two showmen, Payje Orler and Brady McComb, were exceptional, he said, and it came down to a matter of style. McComb would usually kneel once he had his goat set up, and Toews likes to see the exhibitor stay on her feet.
He admitted, however, that if someone else wanted to do it differently tomorrow, he wouldn't argue with the results.
Many of the animals will sell at a premium auction Saturday, ending the project for the 4-H'ers — except for the record-keeping, a necessary but usually disliked job.