Cosette Veeder-Shave’s day usually begins in the early morning hours before many of her classmates, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
The 14-year-old from Hyde Park competes as a member of the 4-H Club and spends her time before and after school caring for her sheep.
She is one of nearly 300 kids raising farm animals in Hudson Valley who will be competing for blue ribbons at this year’s Dutchess County Fair Aug. 25-30.
Veeder-Shave has been participating in 4-H since she was 8.
“My first sheep were two yearlings that were probably bigger than me at the time,” Veeder-Shave said.
For the last several weeks she has been grooming and walking her sheep for 15 minutes each day to prepare them for competition.
At the competition, judges will critique her sheep and owners in a number of categories, including the quality of the wool, how well they can stand up and sportsmanship.
“Sportsmanship is all about how well you handle the sheep to make sure you are not being overly aggressive or too lax in how they are standing, and how you enter and exit the ring,” Veeder-Shave said.
The categories judged are different for each livestock. Rachel Callamari, 13, of Clinton Corners, has been preparing her goats and poultry for the last three weeks for competition.
“With the goats, we have to shave them and clip their hooves a certain way,” Callamari said. “Judges look at the form of the goat — how straight their backs are and the size of the udder. With poultry, they are looking at if the bird is healthy — if it is too thin or fat. You want a big bird.”