Aspen Mayhew is a well-spoken 7th-grade student at Sulphur Springs Middle School, as well as a member of Hopkins County 4H Club. During a brief interview at the KSST studios, Aspen gave an idea of what it’s like to get your livestock project ready for the large local event, the ‘Hopkins County Show’, to be held in the Civic Center arena on February 27 and 28, 2020. The NETLA, or Northeast Texas Livestock Association’s Sale of Champions will take place on Saturday February 29, 2020.
“This year I am showing chickens again. It’s about a 6-week project, start to finish. First, in January, you receive your 25 chickens ordered through our 4H chapter. You begin raising them, which is largely feeding them, keeping a close eye on them, and keeping their bedding clean. The most challenging thing is probably the cleaning, because they get all riled up and scared when you have to change the bedding! But they settle back down soon and begin to eat again. The chickens have a lot of weight and size to gain in a short period of time! Drafts and cold can be a problem when the weather turns real wintery. Inside the barn, I put up a tarp to cut down on drafts and I usually keep a heat lamp on them depending on the temperature. Chickens are very prone to cold and can die! Along the way, you begin to see which of your 25 chicks are going to grow into the best chickens. At some point, I have to cull them. Culling means I separate the show candidates from those I will not be showing. The culls we go ahead and raise anyway in separate quarters, and they ultimately will make good meals for our family. Again and again I have to cull the chickens because I am going to want only the three best specimens for the Show. And validation of my entry is another step in the process. When late February comes and show day is finally here, I transport my ‘pen’ of three chickens to town to the Civic Center arena. That morning, judges will come by and assess all the chicken projects. We have to ‘show’ them, or hold them up for the judges to examine. We may be asked to say something about our project, or answer any questions the judges may ask. When that’s done, all of us showing chickens can give a big sigh of relief because we have gotten that far! The last thing comes a bit later in the day, finding out how our project has placed in the judging, and if it “made the sale”! That is a very exciting time! For me, the most gratifying thing about raising a chicken project is winning! And I know that the getting up early, the feeding, cleaning, culling and lots of time just watching out for their health and growth has it’s benefits, too”.
Aspen’s history with showing livestock goes back to her first year as a fourth grader new to her 4H Club. She has shown cattle as well as chickens. “I earned a showmanship ribbon last year with a heifer, and another year I earned Reserve Champion in the Hopkins County show and at the Ft Worth Livestock Show with cattle. My former project, Venus, was a two-year-old Braford, and she died this week during delivery of her calf. I am very sad to lose her because I had raised her and cared for her all this time, but I must realize that is part of raising livestock”. Aspen plans to keep on raising and showing animal projects during the next few years, and to learn all she can. When asked what advice she has for youth raising livestock projects in hopes of selling them for scholarship money through the NETLA organization, Aspen answered ” Don’t get frustrated if you don’t win the first time you show. You will learn a lot from that. It’s actually a journey!”