July 12, 2012
Poultry judging tests young handlers
Youth show off their animals at 59th annual Junior Fair
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Brooke Rauber and Jackson Slade hold their chickens as they await the judge’s decision Wednesday morning during the market broiler class at the 59th Annual Cortland County Junior Fair.
CORTLANDVILLE — Jackson Slade started raising chickens this year at his family’s Groton residence because he wanted to try something new.
The 9-year-old was already a veteran at helping his parents show dairy cows at the Cortland County Junior Fair.
On Wednesday, he showed three roosters for the first time, out of the seven he has raised since they hatched in May. One of them received the reserve grand champion ribbon for market animals — chickens destined for sale to a processor for someone’s dinner table.
The fair had shows for beef cattle, goats, sheep, pigs and the category for turkeys and broiler chickens on Wednesday, its third day. Other events included a vegetable race, a pedal tractor pull, a bike rodeo and a dairy goat milking contest.
Dairy cow showmanship was to begin today.
The fair continues through Saturday at the Cortland Fairgrounds next to the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex off Route 11.
The annual gathering of farm families, sponsored by 4H and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County, is part showcase, part educational venue, part social and entertainment event.
Slade said his parents, Danielle and Marty Slade, and the family raise livestock at his grandmother Diane’s farm. They hatched seven broiler chickens, which all turned out to be roosters.
“I brought these three,” the Groton Elementary School fourth-grader said as he stood next to the cages holding broiler chickens. “The judge has you hold them by their feet, upside down, and she feels the breast meat, which is the most valuable.”
The judge for market animals was Megan Ackerman, a dairy farmer from West Burlington in Otsego County. Ackerman said she photographs poultry and livestock shows all over the nation and has a great deal of judging experience.
Slade made sure his chickens had enough water and feed pellets.
The grand champion for Slade’s category was Zoe Guttendorf, 16, of Tully.
Slade’s mother said her son decided to try raising chickens out of curiosity. She said the merchant who will purchase them for market has offered to let him watch how they are killed and processed.
A while later, the family sat next to its cows in the cow and horse barn, and Jackson Slade showed off two cows he planned to exhibit.
The sheep judging started at 2 p.m. and involved one particular family from Cortlandville, the Phillips family, who have animals at the Triple 3 Livestock Farm on McLean Road, the one with “Space” in huge white letters on its barn roof.
Jim and Anne Phillips have rented the farm for seven years, since moving to the area after two years in Virginia and several years in Ohio. They met as students at Cornell University.
Their children Schyler, 16, Rylee, 14, and Gus, 11, showed sheep as Ackerman studied the animals’ physical attributes and how smoothly the young people handled them in the ring, before deciding who was best.
Gus Phillips ended up being judged the top junior showman and then master showman, unusual since the senior showman and reserve senior showman usually vie for the top prize. Ackerman praised his handling of his sheep and how well he rotated his position as Ackerman moved around the ring, as well as how he answered questions about his sheep.
A few of the sheep exhibitors, out of the several who brought animals around the ring, struggled to keep their animals in place.
Asked if his sheep’s calm was a result of his working with it every day, so the animal was at home walking with him, Gus Phillips said maybe.
He said he showed pigs for the first time at this Junior Fair.
Jim Phillips said the family has 85 cows and 30 ewes with about 40 lambs.
Gus Phillips, who read a Harry Potter novel next to his family’s sheep pens, said he was surprised to be chosen as master showman.
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