This article was submitted by Shane Dury and Elizabeth Handlin.
Delaware youth Shane Dury. 10, and Elizabeth Handlin, age 16, were both selected to receive sheep at the 2022 Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival during the Youth Conservationist Program Contest.
“I was the 2022 recipient of a yearling White Border Leicester Ewe in the YCP contest held at the MD Sheep and Wool Festival,” Shane said.
“I was introduced to sheep and had been raising a few smaller crossbred sheep through my 4H leader for a couple of years,” he continued. “After having sheep for a few years, I decided to put in my application to see if I would be selected to receive a Border Leicester ewe. My big sister has a small flock of Border Leicesters and I really love the breed. They have a great temperament, are friendly, calm and docile, hearty and have beautiful wool. Border Leicester come in 2 different colors: White and Natural Colored. I wanted to focus on the White colors. I named my ewe ‘Ember,’ and we completed six shows in multiple states. She won me a few grand champion ribbons against some tough competition and the family who selected me to receive her watched me show her online! I handle all her daily care and needs, and we worked very hard on preparing for our shows this past summer. She was bred to a registered Border Leicester ram back in the fall and is due to have her first lamb at the end of March. I’m super excited!”
Lizzie also has years of livestock showing experience behind her.
“I’ve been showing livestock since I was two, but I got my first breeding ewe when I was ten. She was given to me by my 4H leader. I had a great start, but I wanted to raise more competitive sheep. While showing, I saw a Natural Colored Border Leicester and fell in love with their curls and personality,” she said.
“My Border Leicester ewe, Zinnia, which I received from the Youth Conservationists Program is now pregnant and is due April 2. When I was with Zinnia at a show called Stars and Stripes, I won supreme showman. I then got invited to an agriculture convention in New Jersey where I will be doing a display about the YCP program. I’m so glad to have her and she is a great addition to my flock,” Lizzie continued.
The Youth Conservationist Program (YCP) allows all kids ages 9-18 to write an essay saying who they are as an individual, their knowledge with sheep, their flock goals as a shepherd, what breed(s) they are interested in raising and why the conservation of breeds is important.
The program has many breeders that come together to donate a yearling ewe, or a one-year-old female sheep, from their own flocks. In 2022, the program had 11 different heritage breeds that were donated to help get kids started on their very own flocks.
These amazing people committed themselves to being mentors to the kids they selected for their ewe. Once all the essays have been received, the breeders are given all essays from kids that are interested in their breed and they decide who receives their ewe. Once the child accepts the ewe, they go to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival which is held during the first weekend of May. There, they will meet the family who donated the sheep and participate in an award type ceremony to receive ownership of their sheep.
By accepting the sheep, they have agreed to meet five major criteria that is to be completed in a years time. The child must:
- Show/exhibit the sheep at least twice,
- Breed the ewe to a registered ram of same breed,
- Utilize the fleece by either crafting or selling,
- Promote the YCP and their breed in an article to their local paper, and
- Hand in a report the following year to their breeder showcasing how their first year went.
“We would like to tell any kid who wants to start their own flock to apply to this program. Having sheep is a lot of fun. There are lots of people apart of this program that are happy to help you or answer questions you may have. They are very supportive and want to help you raise a healthy and productive heritage breed flock,” Shane and Lizzie said.
For more information, visit https://sheepandwool.org/