Dickinson County 4-Her and Abilene High School student Raine Garten cleaned up at the Kansas State Fair this year.
She received overall Reserve Champion market lamb, overall Reserve Champion ewe, and short horned steer division champion.
Garten plans to take her breeding ewe and her short horned steer to future competitions such as the Kansas Junior Livestock show — an event solely for Kansas youths.
“There’s many shows coming up,” she said.
Garten plans to compete in several of them.
She prepares for livestock shows by working with her animals on a daily basis up to having them do regular workouts on a special treadmill.
Garten said she “works legs” with her animals routinely.
“I wash them, spray stuff in them to make them grow, and then I wrap them to keep the wood chips and stuff out,” she said. “And then I just make sure that they’re up-to-date on everything that they need to be on and make sure that everything is working. We also treadmill our sheep and goats. They’re basically like athletes. Yeah, they get everything that an athlete pretty much would.”
The treadmill Garten uses for her animals is very much like the sort humans use at the gym, but longer she said. It also goes quite a bit faster.
Garten and her family walk their animals backwards and run them forwards. Running, they can go up to about 17 miles per hour, she said. Backwards, they can move at about 15 miles per hour. The animals spend about 7 minutes per day on the treadmill.
“We run them backwards with their front feet off the ground to build more muscle,” Garten said. “And we run them just to burn fat off.”
The workouts help push the animals from local winners to state fair champs.
“Treadmilling just makes them harder,” she said. “They look fresher. You can tell if you treadmill them. Most judges like muscular animals and it just helps that. I mean, it helps a lot.”
As with humans, however, sometimes getting an animal on the treadmill is most of the battle.
Sheep and goats can both be stubborn and they don’t always want to do their daily workouts, she said. In those cases, Garten tries to ease them on and avoid hurting them in the process.
“I just try to get them on as easy as I can,” she said.
Treadmilling can be dangerous if an animal’s feet become stuck in the machinery. She had a goat injure itself on the treadmill once. The goat broke his leg. The injury permanently incapacitated him and she was never able to show him again, she said.
“He never came out of it,” Garten said. “I was very sad.”
But usually hitting the treadmill is beneficial to her animals and not harmful.
It prepares them for contests such as the state fair.
Garten said she did not need to do as much to prepare herself for the state fair as she did her animals.
“It’s more about the animal and not me,” she said. “I don’t know. I just had to keep a physical mindset that I needed to get everything done every day.”
Garten did not go into the state contest thinking she’d do as well as she did. Her steer only weighed 125 pounds, she said.
“My goal for him was to go on to national shows and compete at those,” she said. “We took him to state fair just to get him out to a show.”
Garten believed her steer would win either reserve champion or third place.
“I figured I was going to get third,” she said.
This is not Garten’s first time at state, nor her first time as a champion. Garten has had entries at the state fair since about 2015 or so. She competed last year as well and walked away with overall Grand Champion market lamb.
Showing animals is in her blood.
Garten started showing animals at the age of 7 and attending shows quite literally since she was born. According to Garten, her parents took her to a show where her sisters were competing shortly after leaving the hospital when she was born.
“My family’s been showing since we were all little,” Garten said.
Showing animals has taught Garten how to work hard and how to speak to people. She used to be very shy, she said.
“It’s just got me out of my comfort zone and it’s taught me a lot of responsibility,” Garten said.
For as much as she loves it and for as much as it has benefited her overall, caring for animals also comes with its challenges.
The family bounces from show to show in the springtime, she said. The weather is often humid and rainy. Sheep and goats can develop fungus in that kind of weather, according to Garten. Keeping the animals in top condition and preventing that sort of fungal growth requires much time and effort on her part.
And once an animal has developed something like that, it’s very hard to get rid of the fungus.
“It’s just a lot of work to try to manage that,” Garten said.
Despite all this, Garten wouldn’t trade it for the world. She even plans to make agriculture her career. When she goes to college, she hopes to major in agri-business or ag-marketing. She doesn’t know exactly what career she wants in the agriculture world — only that she wants to go into that field.
“I just know that is what I want to study,” Garten said.