Schools and the general public responded to an invitation to Aggie Days 2010 at Exhibition Park in Lethbridge, and exhibitors were only to happy to become teachers for a day.
Dave Carlson, a Fort Macleod sheep-man and custom shearer, kept children spellbound with a running commentary while he pulled a perfect fleece off one of his sheep. Carlson said it is good times for sheep producers, and he expects it to continue for four or five years as producers work hard to rebuild the nation’s ewe population to boost lamb production.
But while producers are faring well, it is still difficult to find Alberta lamb in Alberta. Carlson said Gerrit Van Hierden of Fort Macleod is trying to rectify that problem. He has been marketing 1,000 to 1,500 lambs a year, many to restaurants in southern Alberta.
Christina and Melissa Lanz also work with wooly animals, but theirs are much larger. Owners of Bitter Water Rescue Ranch near Etzikom, the mother-daughter team take unwanted llamas and abandoned animals and provide a home on the range. Llamas, used as guard animals for sheep flocks, for domestic pets and prized for meat and wool, drew lots of questions during Aggie Days.
“We found that most of the very young students at Aggie Days knew nothing about llamas,” said Lanz. “And the most common mistake many students made was claiming llamas spit on you. They spit, but only as a defence mechanism.”
HELPING THE CURRICULUM
Lawrence Schinkle of Alberta Agriculture, manning a water-management demonstration, said he was able to inform many students of the advances in water management and the importance of conserving water. Lakeview School Grade 4 teacher Robin Wevers said the demonstration came at a good time since the students had just finished the curriculum on Alberta resources and the display of water-measurement devices will fit nicely with the next session. Wevers has brought classes to Aggie Days five times, and finds it a good way to link students with rural Alberta.
Margie Bos of Taber, administrator for Potato Growers of Alberta, was explaining the thrust of the booth at Aggie Days to promote potatoes as a healthy food choice, when a young student exclaimed, “I didn’t know there were red potatoes.” She said showing potatoes grown in southern Alberta with a strong visual backdrop helps tell young students where their food comes from.
Everett Vandenberg, a chicken producer north of Fort Macleod, was taking a shift for the Alberta Chicken Producers booth which started each day with day-old chicks under heat lamps. Those chicks were sent to hobby farms each day since they couldn’t be introduced to commercial operations which exercise strict biocontrol measures.