Time at the Barn
Jeremiah Ramirez, Division 2, 12th grade

The best experience of my life so far has been starting my own livestock breeding program. I never thought much about getting involved in livestock but I was really excited my first year at our County Fair; I couldn’t wait to show the Meat Goat I had raised for my 4-H group. His name was Bob. Little did I know my start in livestock would involve a huge learning lesson. Day 1 at fair and my goat wasn’t acting right and I had no idea why. The weather was cold and by the time the veterinarian came around to help my goat was too cold and had hypothermia. The veterinarian tried medicines and we put heaters in the goat’s pen; despite heroic efforts my goat died around 2:00 am the very first night of my first county fair. My mom was sure I would give up, but little did she know I had found my passion in life. I helped load my dead goat and said goodbye to Bob one last time and then got a few hours’ sleep. I went to the barn early and had to explain what happened to my goat. I did my barn duty. I talked to the people visiting the fair and I helped my friends with their animals. My heart hurt but I had no intention of giving up. Another boy had brought a second goat and I was able to show him on show day. After the animal auction on the last day of our fair I was given an envelope of money that was donated so I could buy another goat for the fair the following year.

The next year I bought two goats to take to fair, just in case. I did pretty well at fair and was able to sell one goat. I took the extra goat home and sold him at a local livestock auction. Year three came and went with a Reserve Supreme Champion win. 
Then my passion really took hold when I purchased my first pair of female goats (mother and daughter names Mama and Princess). The opportunity to show goats year round at livestock shows and to breed my own animals became a reality. The first show I showed both goats and won no ribbons but gained confidence I had never had before. I struggle to learn and I work hard to read and comprehend things. I had to read every day in order to know how to take care of my goats. My passion helped me start to overcome my learning disabilities. 

This past year both does were bred and I started down the path of breeding my own animals to show and to sell for profit. Mama doe kidded in September a few days early. Mama had acquired pregnancy toxoids and I had been providing extra care and nutrition for her. The first baby was stuck and when he was finally delivered he was dead. My heart nearly stopped. The next two babies were stuck also but were born alive. Mama started to fail pretty quickly and after five days she passed away. For weeks I went out to feed the babies with a bottle until they were able to feed on their own from a cooler. Again my mom was sure I would be done with livestock. A few months passed and the babies (Midnight and Special) have grown and the hole in my heart for Mama has been filled with the joy of seeing her babies bounce around our yard. 

Early December Princess began to kid eighteen days early. Princess’ babies were stuck too so my mom and I had to take her to UC Davis about two hours away to see an emergency veterinarian. Again the first baby born was dead. The second baby responded well but passed away after about twenty minutes. The third baby survived in an incubator about twenty-four hours. Again my heart was torn. We took Princess home and treated her with medications every four hours for the first week. Princess has made a full recovery and is back to running circles around the yard. 

Livestock has given me real life lessons that would have been hard for me to learn any other way. I have learned to persevere through difficult times no matter how discouraged and hurt I may be. I have learned that hard work may not always pay off monetarily but will always pay off huge dividends in accomplishment. I have learned that when you find your passion you keep holding on even when it would be so much easier to let go. I have found my passion and I am able to pursue a college education in agricultural management and education so that I can pay forward the lessons I have learned. I am grateful that each experience did not go as planned because I have learned so much more through trial and loss than I would have if I had won every ribbon and buckle I competed for. I still have Princess and I will have her bred again this year. My breeding program continues and I am ready to meet adversity with my head held high knowing that in the end I am blessed for being able to live out my passion in life. 
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