Lamboree opens up the world of lambs
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Lamboree opens up the world of lambs

Jun 20, 2023

KIDS ON THE LAMB: Mark Baumgartner gives Elise Golladay tips on how to present a lamb in a barn on the Lefever Holbrook Ranch during the Lamboree.

The humble lamb was celebrated at the Northwest Lamboree last Saturday, May 27, in Goldendale.

The event took place at the Lefever Holbrook Ranch and included a day full of sheep- and goat-related classes, as well as live music and lunch. The Lamboree was created by the Klickitat County Wool Growers Auxiliary to bring attention to the numerous interesting and exciting things going on within the world of sheep ranching. Classes that day included sheep health, lamb showmanship, butchering sheep, wool production, and more.

The morning started with an introduction by Paulette Lefever-Holbrook, then Lamboree attendees split up to attend the different programs. A group of mostly young people met in a barn for the Market Lamb Selection/Nutrition program presented by Mark Baumgartner, owner of Baumgartner Club Lambs. He raises lambs specifically to be shown. "Club lambs is kind of a slang expression for these types of sheep where the word club is for 4-H club or FFA club," said Baumgartner. "So the purpose of club lambs is to get them into the hands of kids." Club lambs are meat sheep, and all the sheep he raises are sold to young people who are in 4-H and FFA.

During Baumgartner's program, he spoke on several topics such as the diet that a good show lamb needs, and how to clean your lamb, details that help a lamb sell for more at market. One of the obstacles to lamb ranchers in the area is that lamb is not eaten on the West Coast as much as it is in other parts of the country. "A lot of people on the East Coast, especially for Easter holidays, will have leg of lamb," said Baumgartner. "Lamb meat isn't that popular here. It's really good; I like it. The thing that's kind of unique about it is the fat has a strong taste, so if you aren't used to that and you get a piece of meat that's got fat on it, you’re going to have a taste that you haven't experienced before."

The Klickitat County Wool Growers Auxiliary starting the Lamboree event in 2008 and continued it off and on until 2020, when they were forced to cancel that year's event due to Covid. This was the first year they brought it back after the 2020 cancellation. The original idea for the event came from wanting to help educate young people. "There was a group us who were selling market lambs, and what we really saw was that our youth needed education on everything from feeding lambs to fitting lambs to showmanship, to all of that," said Lefever-Holbrook. She said that the Klickitat County Wool Growers Auxiliary has always been focused in part on education, and they decided that they needed to incorporate all the elements of sheep ranching and marketing into one event.

"Sheep is really a wide, diverse animal," said Lefever-Holbrook. "When you look at it, it's the fiber, milk, meat, and all the different breeds and breed types in the sheep industry." The purpose of the Klickitat County Wool Growers Auxiliary and events like the Lamboree wasn't to tell people what kind of sheep is the best to raise, said Lefever-Holbrook, but to bring together people interested and involved in sheep ranching and to offer assistance and mentorship. She said that the WSU Extension used to hold more of these kinds of in-person events in the past. "They’ve started to pull back away from what we call the ‘hands-on’ types of events like this, and so they’re doing more videos or those types of classes. We find the value is being there, having the questions, learning about it, hands-on. That's what, as a group, we felt needed to be preserved."

Lisa Huebner and Janet Town were presenting the Fiber Prep and Spinning programs that day. In the morning they skirted fleece, washed it, and then carded and combed it, and in the afternoon they spun it. Back in the barn, Pierre Monat presented a program titled "Commercial Sheep Production/Small flock improvement." The program covered five basic topics: breeding and selection, health and nutrition, basic management skills, wool production, and marketing/promotion. Monat and his wife run M&P Ranches in Goldendale where they sell lamb and wool products. He is also a lead instructor at the Washington State Shearing School in Moses Lake. He said there are several things that he liked about sheep. "They’re lighter on the land than cattle; they’re not going to tear up ground as much," he pointed out. "Starting out as a shearer, I really value the fact that it's an animal that can provide you with two products. The wool product is really cool; obviously the meat's great too."

When asked if he would like to see more people ranching sheep in the area, Monat said that in the grand scheme of things, we’d be better off transitioning some of our protein consumption to lamb instead of beef. "Lambs are a much more efficient way to produce protein." He said he thought it would be beneficial if people starting ranching multiple species of livestock on the same land. "I went to this ranch in Texas that ran goat, sheep, and cattle together… Their place was separated into 20 different pastures, and they would rotate those three groups of animals through them, and they had found that they actually increased the forage density and availability by doing that, as opposed to when they just ran cattle."

MJ Coyne was assisting Baumgartner with his program on lamb presentation. She learned how to show lamb on Lefever-Holbrook's ranch; then when she was older, she herself taught young people on the ranch. She said that the consumption of lamb was coming into fashion in bigger cities. "We used to have a lot of sheep up in the Simcoes," said Coyne, pointing towards the mountains. "But they got outcompeted, and cattle came more into favor."

This was the first year the Lamboree featured goat-themed programs. Patti Gylling presented the Goat Market Class program where she spoke about how to raise a healthy goat. All of her children raised meat goats and showed them all over the Northwest. She said goats are a good entry-level animal for young people starting out in 4-H. "They’re very personal, they’re easy to train, and you show them with a collar," said Gylling. She said that 4-H helps kids learn many things in addition to how to raise animals. This includes public speaking, leadership, interview skills, and commitment.

4-H is America's largest youth development organization, empowering nearly six million young people with the skills to lead for a lifetime. It's well known for its programs that involve raising animals, but Gylling pointed out that it also involves more non-animal programs than people realize, such as cooking, sewing, archery, and others. "If every kid was in 4-H, our world would be totally different," said Gylling. She said that her youngest son paid for his private pilot license using money he made in 4-H before going to college.

After the morning's events, a lunch consisting of lamb meat products was served while the Sugar Hill Band performed live music. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the fruits of the sheep rancher's labor. After lunch there were more classes and programs. Sheep could be seen roaming in flocks around the property. A young girl pointed out one of the sheep and said it was sick and it would have to be slaughtered soon. She said this not with sorrow but with the maturity and understanding gained from raising livestock. It's this kind of wisdom that people can gain from sheep, lambs, goats, and all animals, and it's this connection with the natural world, on top of all the invaluable education, offered that day at the Lamboree.