By Julia Harris, Staff Reporter It is 2022 Super Bowl night, but junior Katie Lavallee is not watching the game. Instead, she is shivering in the bed of a truck, trying to stay calm on the 45-minute drive to the animal hospital. Just hours before, Lavallee’s group leader called her in because Lavallee’s ewe (female...
By Julia Harris, Staff Reporter
It is 2022 Super Bowl night, but junior Katie Lavallee is not watching the game. Instead, she is shivering in the bed of a truck, trying to stay calm on the 45-minute drive to the animal hospital.
Just hours before, Lavallee’s group leader called her in because Lavallee’s ewe (female sheep) was going into labor. However, the birth did not go exactly as planned, resulting in significant complications.
“I held (the ewe’s) uterus and we slowly loaded her into the truck,” Lavallee said. “It was like 20 degrees. It was really intense because if the uterus ruptures, that could cause her to pass away. She was floating side to side so I just had to make sure nothing happened.”
Eventually, they made it to the hospital and Lavallee’s ewe recovered back to health. The experience only strengthened Lavallee’s dedication to working with sheep, and she now leads the Sheep Club at Delaware County 4-H. She is still taking care of the same ewe, while mentoring and teaching the other kids in the club.
4-H is a national organization centered upon teaching young people about agriculture. Lavallee’s program is located at the Garrett Williamson Barn in New- town Square, which a community member donated so 4-H could teach about agriculture and raising animals. The 4-H program has since expanded to include STEM and creative activities.
“There’s a bee club. There’s archery. There’s gardening. It’s more than just agriculture. I would say it started out as that but it has really expanded in the last 10-20 years,” Lavallee said.
Lavallee first became involved with 4-H when her dad saw an advertisement in the newspaper.
Although 8 is the minimum age to become involved with the animals, Lavallee started spending time in the barn at 6 years old. She would help her older sister with her Horse Club chores, while observing the other animals in the barn.
“While I was there in the winter they always had breeding and lambing, and lambing was a really cool experience,” Lavallee said. “I would go in the barn, and they have heat lamps and the lambs would be there. I just adored them. They’re like stuffed animals. That’s what really made me want to join (Sheep Club).”
Being in Sheep Club soon be- came a year-long commitment for Lavallee. The adult instructors at 4-H bring in a ram to breed with the 13 ewes from August to November. The ewes give birth from late January into February.
Then, the club members raise the babies for half a year, feeding and training them for outside fairs. Finally, they sell most of the ewes off by the end of the year, but keep two to three of them.
“There’s so much to it,” Lavallee said. “I’ve learned the true meaning of hard work and pas- sion, getting up at 5 a.m. to go see a birth or being on call just to be there when my ewe is in labor. I also have learned a lot about leadership. I am currently the leader of the Sheep Club, so I organize events and am in charge of the club’s agenda.”
For Lavallee and her group members, situations like that on Super Bowl night are not entirely uncommon. During the regular birthing period, from late January to February, Lavallee must be on call and ready to come in at any time of day or night if her ewe goes into labor.
This year, due to the uncommon Cache Valley virus, there have been many miscarriages and stillbirths. The virus also caused many of the sheep to have twins.
“Animals are a lot of work and I think it has taught me that a lot of times you’ll put so much into things and they don’t always work out,” Lavallee said. “You just have to trust that it’ll all work out eventually.”
Julia Harris can be reached at [email protected]
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