DES MOINES, Iowa –Students around Polk County are getting ready to show their livestock at the Polk County Fair. It's hard work, and it’s even harder when you don't have a place to keep your animals on your land.
"He's only like 150 pounds, mom, don't worry." You'd think this was a backyard barn at Sophia Anderson's house. She said, "They're kind of like, where do you keep all these, are they in your backyard just kind of hanging out?"
she has two sheep and two rabbits. Since she lives in the city of Des Moines, the FFA student had to find a place to keep her livestock. “It's not like I have a sheep in my backyard,” she said.
You'll find seven sheep, three dairy goats, six meat goats, twenty chickens, four rabbits, and a handful of hogs in and around a barn on Des Moines Public School's land on County Line Road.
Co-FFA Advisor and Des Moines Animal Science Instructor Kevin Anderson said, "In a traditional ag setting, students would have their livestock at their own family farm, but because we're 100 percent urban population here in Des Moines, and Des Moines Public Schools, kids actually get to raise their own livestock here."
The students own their animals and buy their feed. Sophia has invested about $500 in her sheep, and she's ready to show the two at the Polk County Fair. She said, "You have to put their back feet kind of behind them, and then you lift their head up like this. You want their back to be as flat as you can get it. Then the judge will come by and feel them. They'll feel the loin right here which is the big money part of the sheep."
Nine students have livestock at the barn that they will show at the county fair, but about 15 take turns feeding the animals two times a day and do chores. "So, each kid comes out and does chores roughly four times a week, but when they're not doing chores, they're actually out here with their animals, giving them baths, giving them haircuts, fun stuff like that," said Mr. Anderson.
He said it prepares the FFA students for a career in animal science, while teaching responsibility and commitment. Sophia said, "I've put a lot of work into him, so I'm very proud of the way he is, and what he looks like. I think he's going to do good."
The Polk County Fair is at the Iowa State Fairgrounds July 19-24.