By SUSAN MYKRANTZ
WOOSTER, Ohio — After winning a Border Leicester sheep in the 2012 Youth Conservation Program, Taylor Howman of Wooster is now encouraging other young shepherds to enter the 2013 contest.
The purpose of the Youth Conservationist Program is to introduce young shepherds to breeds of sheep not commonly found in the United States.
The ultimate goal is to conserve breeds known as heritage breeds. These are older breeds that are less common in flocks across the country.
“This contest helps kids get used to sheep; they can get their own sheep and learn to care for them,” Howman said. “It also helps the heritage breeds; if there are more of these sheep in the U.S., we can preserve these breeds.”
As part of the program, 4-H and FFA members between the ages of 9-18 are required to write an essay addressing the question: “Why I would like to help preserve a heritage breed of sheep?” In addition, they must also explain how they would care for the sheep.
Their entries must include a letter of recommendation from a teacher, veterinarian, clergy or 4-H or FFA advisor. They must also be present at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival to receive the lamb.
After Howman received her ewe lamb, Alisa, at the 2012 Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, she exhibited it at the Wayne County Fair and the Ohio State Fair. “I got last in my class,” she said. “Since there are not many Border Leicesters in our area, they are put in with other breeds of sheep.”
She said the best part of the program was having her own awesome Border Leicester to “hang out with.” Border Leicesters are a wool-type breed. The wool looks a lot like mohair and makes beautiful yarn.
Howman said last summer, her grandpa sheared the lamb for her and she helped card the fleece for her grandmother to spin and knit into a vest, which she wore in the Shepherds’ Lead at the Wayne County Fair.
She is knitting a pair of mittens with some of the yarn, and is planning to exhibit this year’s fleece at the National Border Leicester Show in Wooster, in May.
Howman also was required to breed her ewe to a registered Border Leicester ram. The result was a set of twin lambs born Feb. 17.
“She had a ewe lamb and a ram lamb, all by herself,” she said. “Grandma went to the barn and there they were. I got to see them right after they were born. Alisa has been taking good care of them. She is an awesome mother.”
She named the ewe Spirit and the ram, Steve. Howman is also keeping a scrapbook highlighting her activities during the year and will display the scrapbook at the 2013 Maryland festival.
She added since she won last year, she is not eligible to enter again this year, so someone else is eligible to win a sheep. “I am happy with my Border Leicester sheep,” she said. “Anyways, I couldn’t win another Border Leicester, and I don’t want another breed.”
As part of the program, Howman has been promoting the contest through interviews and articles in several newspapers to encourage other young shepherds to enter the contest.
“They will learn how to write an essay and if they get a sheep, they will learn some responsibilities,” she explained. “They will help increase the number of heritage breed sheep while spreading them around to different places to help keep them from becoming extinct. They can be proud to own a heritage breed sheep.”
Entries for the 2013 contest must be postmarked by April 1. For more information or to apply for the 2013 program, contact Elaine Ashcraft, 46118 CR 58, Coshocton, OH 43812, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org