Peek Behind the Show Ring to See What Kids Learn

Many carry lessons on into life after 4-H.

Published on: Dec 10, 2013

By Brooke Fruits

For many livestock enthusiasts, the stock show life does not end in the show ring. 

What started as a 4-H project grew into a 40 head operation for young sheep producer Ann Fry, West Lafayette. 

Ann's journey in the industry began her second year in 4-H.  After her mom shot down the idea of having pigs, she and her older brother were able to convince her of a trial run showing sheep with their neighbors.

She grew to love showing sheep and the industry, and in 2000 Bechman Family Southdowns was created.  Southdown was the family's breed of choice because it is a fairly small breed that is easy to manage, Fry said. 

Right lessons: Many youth like Ann Fry (far right) get the right message from the show ring – buy stock you can afford and build a herd around, prepare well, do your best and help younger members.
Right lessons: Many youth like Ann Fry (far right) get the right message from the show ring – buy stock you can afford and build a herd around, prepare well, do your best and help younger members.

Southdowns are known for their tender, flavorful meat and are a docile breed that requires little space, according to the American Southdown Breeders' Association.  This makes them a popular breed for 4-H and FFA projects.  They were also one of the first breeds to "slick shear," which means they are shorn to the hide.  This rule is meant to put greater emphasis on conformation.

The ASBA has 402 members. Indiana contributes 9% of those members, which includes Bechman Family Southdowns. 

Ann and her family were competitive at the county, state and national level during her show career.  They had multiple champions at the Indiana State Fair, and in her last year showing, Ann had the National Southdown Junior Show Champion Ewe. Some of their champions, which include the Champion Ewe at the 2011 Indiana Jr. Southdown Show and Reserve Champion Southdown Ewe at the 2010 Indiana State Fair Jr. Show, now make up the foundation of their flock.

Although she is no longer competing inside the show ring, Ann hopes to continue raising Southdowns and expand the operation.

"You get started and it becomes a part of you," she said.  Now acting behind the scenes, Ann's goal is to raise good sheep and help youth.

Fruits is a senior in Purdue University Ag Communications