Stillwater News Press

Local News

August 28, 2013

Value of hard work

STILLWATER, Okla. — Teaching children the value of hard work and responsibility is one of the chief reasons to get them involved in showing animals.

That was the dominant theme expressed by several parents Wednesday at the Payne County Fair.

“The reason we do this is to teach our kids responsibility, how to work,” said Dr. Greg Vanzant, a Stillwater cardiologist who has a herd of 40 sheep on a ranch in southwest Stillwater. “This summer, they probably averaged six or eight hours a day doing chores. During the school year, they will spend almost that amount of time. It gives them something to do other than computers and video games. ... For us, it’s a tool. We always say that we are not raising sheep. We are raising kids.”

Vanzant’s children, Cort and Claudia, were entered in the market sheep show Wednesday in the annual summer fair, which continues through Saturday at Payne County Expo Center.

“We have a very small operation here in Stillwater, and the operation is solely designed to raise children,” Vanzant said.

Like Cort and Claudia Vanzant, Kaylee and Kaden Brunker of Perkins also became involved in showing sheep through family. Their father, Brandon Brunker, has been an agriculture teacher at Perkins-Tryon High School for 21 years.

“They were raised in the program,” Brunker said. “We raise (sheep) at home, and the lambs that we are showing today are ones from our own program.”

On their ranch near Perkins, the Brunkers tend to a herd of 47 mature ewes, and the children take an active role in raising them.

“It all starts with responsibility. They have to feed them twice a day and do the exercise program,” Brunker said.

“In the market shows, the more muscular your sheep is, the better chance they have to grade out against the other sheep,” said Cort Vanzant, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Stillwater Middle School.

Vanzant has been showing sheep for three years — with success. He had the grand champion market lamb at last spring’s Payne County Junior Livestock Show and won junior showmanship and supreme champion ewe.

Claudia Vanzant, a 10-year-old student at Sangre Ridge Elementary School, said she enjoys working with the sheep and spending time with them in the barn.

Brandon Brunker said success at a show is 90 percent approximately showmanship.

“You have to know how to present your animal,” he said. “They spend a lot of time working on that. ... The biggest thing in showing sheep is getting your animal to brace. You have to get them to tense up where the judge can feel the muscle (of the sheep).”

Brunker said children also get a chance to interact with many different types of people, which helps their development.

“We go to a lot of state shows,” Brunker said. “And there’s the competition factor. Everybody wants to win but not everybody is going to win. They have to learn to take the defeats with the wins. It makes a better person out of them.”

Kaylee Brunker, a 15-year-old sophomore at Perkins-Tryon, has been involved in showing sheep since she was a small girl, ever since she was big enough to hold sheep in the peewee division.

Most people don’t get into showing sheep for the money, Brandon Brunker said.

“With the price of feed now, we’re breaking even, maybe making a little,” Brunker said. “But the more important thing is, (children) learn responsibility.”

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