Animal house

Live Oak's Erinne Contival helps her lamb Bob down from the grooming table as she prepares to show hims Tuesday with the Morgan Hill FFA during the Santa Clara County Fair.

The Santa Clara County Fair opens to the public August 1, but 4-H and Future Farmers of America organizations from Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy are already in the swing of things, competing on fairgrounds since July 28.
Beginning with 4-H competitions in the morning and following with FFA in the afternoon, large farm animal showings have been held in the Expo Hall since Monday. Different species are shown each day of the week and competitions continue until Sunday’s auction.
“The animals were moved in on Sunday and they will stay here until the next Sunday,” Assistant Livestock Superintendent Kirsti Whitmyre with the SCC Fair said.
Whitmyre said there are nine market classes of each animal – classes being determined by weight – that are shown during the fair. The animals that win first and second place in each class continue to the champion drive, which is held at the end of each day once the nine class competitions have concluded.
“The kids competing learn about how to be meat producers and how to market their animals and themselves,” Whitmyre noted.
Goats were shown Monday, followed by about 90 lambs that competed on Tuesday according to Whitmyre.
Eric Swensen, a sophomore at Morgan Hill’s Sobrato High School, showed his goat on Monday and earned third place in his market class. Though he is done with his competition, Swensen returned to the Expo Hall on Tuesday to help other Sobrato FFA members prepare.
“I’m just helping out whoever needs help and with barn duty and clearing the aisles,” Swensen, 15, said.
Tanya Salo, a Sobrato FFA instructor, said that FFA promotes self esteem and leadership for the students involved and that she has seen it help many students have success in their lives post-high school.
“FFA provides students with an opportunity to learn curriculum with an emphasis in agriculture. This is an important concept as agriculture is our most important industry and young adults need to be literate about where their food comes from and how agriculture plays a role in society,” Salo said.
In addition to showing animals for competition, Sobrato FFA – which has its own barn located at the high school for students who are unable to raise their animals at their homes – brought their sow and her three-day-old piglets to a nursery area at the Expo Hall for the public to enjoy. Swensen and his fellow FFA members played with the precious piglets, which were less than a foot long and no more than a few pounds, during down time. Some were all pink and others had brown or black patches.
During the competition portion of the fair, 4-H and FFA members are also scrutinized on showmanship. Contestants have the ability to win based on how well they present their animal and how much control they have over their animal’s behavior. A round-robin showmanship competition, which features all of the week’s winners so far, will be held on Saturday.
Morgan Hill student Elizabeth Funke competes in 4-H competitions as well as FFA. She has been involved with showing animals for seven years and will be the vice president of the Sobrato FFA chapter during the 2013-2014 school year. On Monday, her goat was the champion reserve FFA market goat and on Tuesday Funke won two classes of market lamb in 4-H.
“Showing and showmanship are fun when your animal actually works with you,” Funke chuckled.
Farther along in the week, Funke will show her pig, sow, turkeys and chickens in various areas of the fairgrounds.
Those competing in 4-H are ages nine and older, while those in FFA consists of high school students. San Martin 4-H, Gilroy FFA, Morgan Hill FFA and Sobrato FFA are the local agricultural organizations competing throughout the week and into the Santa Clara County Fair.
There will be an auction on Sunday for anyone in the public to register as buyers and bid for the animals shown in the competitions. The animals that win first place in market competitions and champion drives are of higher selling value, Whitmyre explained.
“Anyone can register as a buyer,” she continued. “Businessmen, family, friends or whoever. The animals are sold by the pound.”
Those who sell their animals usually put their money towards buying another animal for the next year or towards college, Whitmyre said.
Salo said that students generally fund their own projects or acquire interest-free loans and pay for the animal and its feed. When they sell at auction they are striving to earn back their money and also make a profit.
“The animals are sold at a rate per pound and students can make anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to possibly even a $1,000 profit depending on their effort in marketing their project and obtaining a buyer,” Salo said.
For a complete list of events and information about the County Fair, which will be going on August, 1-August 4, visit
Wednesday: Swine
Thursday: Beef
Friday: Horses; 4-H in the morning and FFA in the afternoon 
Saturday: Round-robin large animal master showmanship competition at 9 a.m.
Sunday: Auction 
Visit for more information