Youngster learns lessons from 4-H
DIVIDE CREEK August is a busy time of year for 14-year-old Rachel Dowdell. Its Garfield County Fair time, and she looks forward to it all year long.I love showing, she said steadying one of her sheep against her leg. I love to get in there. I get too many nerves, but I love to show. I have so much fun going in the showmanship and market classes. Its just that rush of leaving and being able to say that, Ive won first place.Every day for pretty much the past eight years, she gets up early, be it before school or on summer break. There is no sleeping in. Shes got plenty of work to do raising one steer, a heifer and a calf, three pigs and a handful of sheep. Raising livestock was a natural progression for Rachel. Both of her parents, Roger and Dawna Dowdell, participated in 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) as kids. Rachel grew up watching her older brother, Clayton Dowdell, active in both as well.So, its just a natural progression of ranch living.My brother was showing animals and then my parents just got me into it and I just followed my brother, Rachel said.Claytons been a good role model for his little sister, too. In 2007, Clayton, won Grand Champion swine in the Junior livestock sale.This year, Rachel will show two pigs at the Garfield County Fair and shes also raising one specifically for the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo later in the month.
Rachel approached the sheeps pen and brought one forward. She led it through the gate, turned it around and leaned into it. The obedient sheep responded by pushing its weight into her leg, almost like a reflex.This is just to show their power, Rachel said. When he pushes with all his strength he can almost push me over.The ease with which Rachel commands the young sheep is evidence of how much time shes spent working with them. Much of Rachels day is spent with her animals. She rises with the sun and begins feeding them one by one. She starts with her hogs and then her steer, and then the heifer and the calf. Then its bathing her steer and making sure theyve all been watered. She checks them around 11 a.m. and again in the evening where she closes most days by washing her steer again.He gets washed twice a day, she insisted.She usually receives a helping hand from Clayton with feeding the sheep. But thats one of the lessons learned through raising livestock, lending a hand when needed. The Dowdells see it as a family experience.Honestly, theyre only as involved with it as you let them be, and as much as you get involved with them, Roger said. If you just said, heres a steer and its your problem, there wouldnt be much. Youve got to help them, too.Some mornings are tougher than others and Rachel is no different than any other 14-year-old girl who wants to hang out with her friends, stay up late and sleep well into the following day. And she can still do that, but she still has to tend to her livestock as well.I just have to do it, she said plainly.Theyve got something to maintain, day in and day out, Roger said. Its a seven-day-a-week job no matter what she wants to do and still has the responsibility to get all that done before she goes out to have fun.Rachel doesnt mind all the hard work, she actually enjoys it.Its so much fun that Ill do the work, she said all smiles. Its all worth it.More than feeding and wateringRaising livestock, in Rachels view, is more than just feeding and watering its expanded her horizons and shes made a lot of friends through it all.Meeting new people and having people being able to help you is one of the best things about it, Rachel said. Ive learned so much through the years Ive been in 4H, Rachel said. How to feed them, clipping, everything on how to raise a steer. Its amazing how much you can do with a steer to make them look amazing.But her parents know that she is learning a whole lot more than even she may notice right now.I think its more the ethics they get out of it, Roger said. When its all said and done, they get a sense of pride of what theyve accomplished that they can go somewhere with. Its a great program for any of them to get involved with.Most kids will be involved in either one or two species to raise, according to Roger, but not Rachel.Shes kind of broadened out wanting to raise them all, Roger said. They are a little burdened by it. They can show as many as they want to but they can only sell two while they are down there.So, focusing on more than two means a whole lot of extra work. But that work pays off in different ways and Rogers seen the rewards first hand.The one thing theyve probably learned more than anything is they learn how to manage their money, Roger said. Its their money theyre spending.Roger helped both his kids get started by purchasing the first animals and with yearly feed. But Rachels acquired her animals by managing her money.Shes getting a real good learning this year, she had two steers to start with and she lost one early in the year, Roger explained. That was a bit of a financial hit for her. But instead of sitting back and crying, she said, I want to buy a heifer.She found one she could afford, bought and bread it so that next year shell have two calves.Shes slowly building up her own little cow herd, Roger said. Shell get there one of these days.Just entering high school and her brother leaving for college soon, has also got Rachel thinking of the future as well.Its made me think of what I can buy, what I can do, what I can get, she said. To be able to say that Ive got money to save for college and that I can do these things it pretty cool.Contact John Gardner: email@example.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
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