NDSU student Madysen McKeever discusses Little I and her show sheep, Baaarbra Ann
Q: For those who don’t know, what is Little I?
A: Little I, or Little International, is a livestock show where NDSU students have been showing animals for 94 years. Students get the opportunity to pick their top three animals that they would like to show, then it’s first come first serve for the animals. Typically, students will get their top pick, or at least their second pick. Once the student gets their animal, they are designated a certain amount of time to work with and prepare the animal for the show. If you are showing a cow you get a month, but for sheep and pigs, you only get two weeks.
Q: What made you want to participate in it this year?
A: I’ve been a member of the club for three years now and have always wanted to show an animal, I just didn’t think I had the time and wasn’t sure what I would have to do. I decided that this year, I would make the time and have fun while doing it. I also had friends that had done it in the past and they always said that it was extremely rewarding and fun. So I figured I’d give it a try.
Q: How does the process work? (getting your animal, preparing, etc.)
A: First, you have to be in the club to participate. It’s only ten dollars for the year so it is very affordable. Then sometime in November, after a Wednesday night meeting, they will send out an email at 10 o’clock. In this email, there is a link to a survey where you will race to pick your top three animals, as well as list what breed of that animal you would want to show. You also tell them how much experience you have with that animal, and if you have ever showed before. I put absolutely no experience. Then you wait an agonizingly long time (a few weeks) till they let you know what animal you got. I was lucky and got my first choice, a Hampshire Ewe.
As a member of the club, you’re required to sell at least fifty dollars worth of ads (donations are also accepted). It’s nice for the club if you can raise more money because it makes a better show, and allows for larger prizes. You also get credit for showing an animal.
The sign up for the class is in the spring semester.
Q: What was the most rewarding thing you got out of participating in Little I?
A: The most rewarding part for me was going into it, not knowing anything about sheep or how to get them ready for a show. It was so cool to get compliments on her looks and attitude after all the hard work I put in. I also loved encouraging the others to keep going, because the more you work with your animal the better it gets. Even though I didn’t win anything, I had the best time making a bond with my animal and sharing the experience with my friends and family at the show.
Q: What is something you wish you had known going into it?
A: I wish I had known a little more information on how to fit an ewe. Fitting an ewe means that you try to make them look as boxy as possible, you achieve the fit by shearing and trimming them. Going into the day of preparation I thought I was fitting her for a harness…I was way off, and it isn’t just one day, it is the whole two weeks. I also wish I knew how much I would fall in love with Baaarbra Ann because now I miss her and wish I could see her more often.
Q: What was it like working with Baaarbra Ann?
A: Working with Baaarbra Ann was one of the most interesting and weird experiences I have ever had. It was like working with a child, some days were better than others. It was always so funny to me because anytime I went to go catch her, it was like a game of tag. When I would reach for her she would run away for about five minutes. Once I would finally catch her she was like, “Oh hey mom, where have you been? I haven’t seen you in a while.” She was always really good when I had her up on a stand and was shearing her. One of her favorite times was getting baths. She loved the warm water and biting the hose. She’s always been patient, I really lucked out and got the best sheep from the herd.
Q: In what ways did you see your relationship with Baaarbra Ann grow and develop?
A: I spent every day with Baaarbra Ann for two weeks, so we really got to know each other. When I first started, she was really resistant and tried to jump over my head. It took a few days for her to start to realize that I was someone she could trust and relax with. After that, we started to get to know one another and I got to know a lot of her quirks.
Like when she’s stressed or bored, she needs to chew on something. Most of the time it was my finger, but sometimes I gave her the lead rope. I also knew that anytime she was up on a stand, no matter how long, she would not go to the bathroom. She would start to get a little antsy and had her own little potty dance. So I would let her get off, and she would go to the bathroom and she would get back on and start again. It was so amazing making a bond like that with an animal, and I never expected that it would be with a sheep.
Q: Are you interested in participating again next year? If so, would you want to show a sheep again?
A: I definitely want to show again next year, and I hope to show a sheep. It would be even better if it was one of Baaarbra Ann’s babies. I already know that if it is, I would name her Annie.
Q: What was the most challenging part of working with Baaarbra Ann and the Little I process in general?
A: The most challenging part about showing and working with Baaarb was the beginning, not knowing how sheep think and work. I also found it pretty challenging figuring out how to shear and cut her because there wasn’t really anything online about it. I was really lucky though and one of the most experienced ‘showers’ gave me tips and pointers that encouraged me to keep going.
Q: What was the show like?
A: There’s a morning and a night show. For the morning show, you have around 13 minutes to show off your animal to the judge. This is also the time where they pretty much make their decision on who their winner is going to be for the night show. Then for the night show, you get seven minutes to show your animal to the judge and he will make his final decision.
There is only one novice winner of that class and the top three non-novice. Whoever that is, shows in the overall and there is a top novice overall and a top showman in that species. That winner then moves on to Round Robin where the top winners compete for the top showmen overall by showing the four winning animals.
The show itself was crazy. One minute we were all stressed trying to get our animal ready just minutes before the show, then we were walking into the arena, it was all a blur. I did what I thought was right and I was so proud of Baaarbra Ann. She acted better than I ever could have expected. We then left the arena, and I was sad that everything was over; I had so much fun.
Q: Now that it is over, in what ways have being in the show affected and/or changed your life?
A: Showing Baaarbra Ann has reminded me about the importance of time management. It also taught me how amazing this time in our life is, and how we shouldn’t waste it. I reminded me to continue to try new things and get out of my comfort zone because you never what you could learn.
Thank you, Madysen, for your time.