Buck Slade wins grand champion market lamb award at 2017 Pratt County Fair.
Buck Slade is no stranger to the congratulatory handshake given to winners in 4-H livestock competitions, but that doesn't lessen his appreciation for the honor. This year the 12-year-old 4-H member won the Grand Champion market lamb award at the Pratt County Fair with a 147-pound heavyweight crossbred lamb named Buster. Previous years he had brought out grand, reserve grand and class winning entries.
Slade is also no stranger to the work it takes to make a fair time winner. He has been walking his sheep every day, feeding them, fitting them out for shows and trailering them to more than 10 shows across the mid-west. After the county fair he will compete at the Junior Livestock Show, in Denver and at the Kansas State Fair.
"I think it's fun," he said. "I just like being with my sheep."
In addition to feeding his six project lambs a special pelleted feed top dressed with minerals every day, he spends considerable time drenching them with an electrolyte solution so they stay hydrated and can better handle the heat at fair time.
"At first they resist and it's hard to do," he said. "But after awhile they learn to like it and it's no big deal."
In addition to top quality feed and care, the other part of the equation to raising a champion is the show preparation, according to Slade.
He walks his sheep a half mile every day, leading them off the yard with halters and lead ropes, then hand leading, then finally turning them loose and letting his dog herd them back home into their pens. This helps them build muscle and keeps them from getting too fat. He also spends a lot of time trimming and fitting, especially close to show time.
"I start early in the morning washing and clipping their heads," he said. "Then my mom comes in and works on the body and the legs. We had to learn to do it all ourselves, but there were a lot of people along the way who showed us how to do it."
There were a few things the Slade and his family figured out just due to time spent with their animals.
"My lamb, Barry, likes to eat Cheetos," he said. "He is my favorite because he has such a fun personality."
Slade and his younger brothers showed Hampshire, crossbred and natural (colored wool/skin) lambs this year. He also shows rabbits along with an older brother. A Skyline student, Slade is looking forward to taking new agriculture classes there this fall, and plans to continue his involvement in 4-H and the livestock industry.