Raising sheep has become a family affair for Katy Tuggle and her family.
The Tuggles show roughly 20 sheep at four to six county fairs, including the Lorain County Fair, as well as the state fair every summer.
The family raises, breeds, and shows Oxfords, Southdowns, and Texas sheep.
“We just keep growing,” said Tuggle, who has been showing sheep for eight years and is in her four year with the Future Farmers of America chapter at Firelands High School.
Her great-grandfather was the first person in her family to buy sheep and then her father took over and the hobby keeps getting passed down to each new generation.
“It’s a lot of work because we lamb them out and breed them,” Tuggle said. “We have them all year but the biggest part is we all love to show them so that’s why we go to so many fairs.”
Tuggle believes part of the reason her parents love to have the sheep is to teach their children about the responsibility of taking care of the animals. “It’s a lot of characteristics that are hard to learn if you don’t have animals,” Tuggle said.
The kids have learned how to shear the sheep, trim their hooves, show them, wash them, check their health, bottle-feed babies, and check on the lambs constantly to make sure they’re safe.
Tuggle plans to show two market lambs and three breeding sheep this season. Her family will also take 20 sheep to show in the open class.
One task Tuggle has to do before taking her sheep to the fair is to halter break them, which means walking her lambs without halters or collars.
Halter-breaking a lamb is pretty easy and Tuggle said her three breeds are very docile compared to others, which makes it easier to show them.
“They’re actually pretty simple, which is what’s nice about sheep and goats… They’re not nearly as much work as taking a steer,” she said.
Tuggle wants people to understand that most of the sheep they see at the fair are not used for their wool.
“Wool is a big part of it but not in America,” Tuggle said. “Here it’s mostly for meat. I know lamb isn’t really a popular meat to have but it’s actually pretty healthy for you.”
Letting go of her animals at the end of the fair — sending them off to market — was hard the first couple of years but it’s since gotten easier.
“It’s kind of hard to see them go but not as hard as when it’s my only project and I have to wait a couple more months to get another one,” Tuggle said. “I still have so many more back home. They’ve always been here and I’m sure they always will be.”
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.
Photos by Valerie Urbanik | Civitas Media
Katy Tuggle demonstrates the proper way to stand a sheep during showing.