The countdown to the county fair is on. Oakdale’s FFA and 4-H members are getting their project displays ready, checking the weights of their market animals, practicing showmanship, and getting their equipment together. The Stanislaus County Fair runs July 31 through Aug. 3.
Oakdale High School FFA member Presley Gravatt is taking a market lamb named “Elvis,” three Suffolk breeding sheep, and a dairy replacement heifer — a pregnant Holstein named “Lola” — to this year’s fair.
One of Gravatt’s Ag teachers, Bob Joseph, recently weighed Elvis so that she would know how close she’s getting with the market lamb’s ideal weight for the fair. Gravatt is also helping her younger sister and brother, who are Sierra 4-H members, with their fair projects. Her sister has a market lamb and her brother is going to show at the fair for the first time this year with a meat goat.
Gravatt has been showing sheep for several years but taking a dairy heifer to the fair is a new prospect for the teen.
“This is my first year (with a replacement heifer) and I’m loving it,” she said. “They’re definitely a lot more work than sheep. It’s kind of the same (as sheep), there’s a lot of responsibility. They depend on you.”
She said that one of her mom’s friends used to show dairy cattle and has helped her learn how to properly show her heifer in the showring.
Gravatt knows what kind of hours she has to keep at the fair — it’s an all-day, everyday endeavor. She’s prepared to be in the livestock barns by around 5 a.m. each day because there’s work that needs to get done early. She’ll be cleaning pens and putting in new bedding each morning and making sure her animals get their regularly scheduled feedings. She’ll also make sure her animals get plenty of water throughout the typically hot days of the fair. She’ll spend time in the washracks making sure her heifer is clean and her market lamb will have its wool shorn short. On show days, she’ll spend a fair amount of time grooming her animals before entering the showring and then spend more time afterward taking care of them. She’ll also spend time assigned to “barn duty,” where she’ll pitch in on keeping Oakdale FFA’s barn area clean.
“It’s a lot of work but at the fair it pays off,” she said.
And the payoff is indeed literal. On Aug. 1 she’ll sell her dairy heifer in the 41st Annual Replacement Heifer Sale. The next day, which is the final Saturday of the fair, she’ll sell her market lamb at the 45th Annual Junior Livestock Auction.