Some Merced County Spring Fair lambs will have a local flavor this year.
The junior livestock show will include a “Valley Lamb Show” featuring animals that were born and raised in Merced County and fed locally-produced feeds.
This unique competition, open to all Merced County 4-H and FFA members, recognizes the value and quality of California’s – and Merced County’s – commercial lamb industry.
Local sheep producers typically run their sheep in dormant alfalfa fields during the winter when the lambs are born and sell the fattened lambs in the spring.
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The 4-H and FFA members who elected to compete in this new category drew lots for their lambs that were sold by Los Banos sheepman Amador Zabalbeascoa at commercial price.
“This project will teach a real life lesson in agriculture while promoting locally grown lamb on locally grown feed. We think this fresh, local product will be a great addition to our Junior Livestock Auction on May 3,” said fair manager Ron Brandt. He and Zabalbeascoa personally sifted through more than 300 lambs to select the best for the competition.
After lamb selection, participating club members picked up a basic ration of alfalfa, almond hulls, corn and cottonseed meal – all produced in Merced County – for their animals.
The lambs will weigh more than 100 pounds at fair time and will be shown in a longer fleece than usual, to preserve the value of the pelt. Qualifying lambs will be placed in the sale order in the final rotation and will have a higher resale price based on the value they have for the consumer.
Valley lambs will be eligible for a special showmanship class and can also be entered in the regular showmanship classes. The judge will select champion and reserve champion 4-H Valley lambs and champion and reserve champion FFA lambs.