At 14 years old, Jesus Hernandez knows what he wants to do with his life.
“I want to do pipeline welding,” he said, “and I’d like to make a custom welding business. I want to raise 1,000 sheep and then I want to help out the 4-H kids.”
He’s off to a good start, too.
“I’m 14 years old,” Hernandez said. “I go to Mesa, eighth grade. I’ve been raising lambs almost two years.”
The first rule of animal care is discipline, and this young man has that.
“The first thing I do every morning is feed them and make sure they have water,” Hernandez said. “I give them hay and sometimes I let them out in the field. You gotta watch them. They’ll eat anything they find, like dog food.”
Hernandez’ father is grateful for the support his son has received.
“We like animals and we started buying them about a year and a half ago,” he said. “He owns these sheep. Andrea Pettit, from Hagerman pushed him to show them. She sold him his first 10 head of sheep. He goes to help her at her place, and he learns a lot from her.
“Mark Steen and James Duffey have been really kind and helpful to him, also.”
Mr. Hernandez said this is about much more than money for the family.
“This isn’t to make money, it’s for my son to learn,” he said. “We would like to maintain about 100 head of sheep. We’ve had 52 sheep at one time, but we had to get rid of some that were getting too old. We have 27 head now. We have five sheep that are about to have babies. One always has three at a time. We have Katahdin and Dorper sheep. The Katahdin is a lot taller than the Dorper. Both are meat sheep.”
The Eastern New Mexico State Fair has been promoting area agriculture for 95 years.
The Eastern New Mexico State Fair Junior Livestock Show had a successful showing during this year’s fair, boasting 1,547 entries from 443 individual exhibitors. Exhibitors came from 19 counties in New Mexico, the highest numbers of entrants coming from Chaves County (128), Curry County (51), Lea County (46), Roosevelt County (45), and Eddy County (40).
The counties of the remaining exhibitors were Cibola, Colfax, DeBaca, Doña Ana, Guadalupe, Harding, Lincoln, McKinley, Mora, Otero, Quay, San Juan, Santa Fe, Union and Valencia.
According to Cody Burson, the superintendent for the Junior Livestock Show, Ben Crist, a senior this year, stood out during the events. “He had the reserve grand lamb and the reserve grand meat goat. This was Ben’s senior year, so he went out being very competitive,” Burson shared.
Eight types of animals were seen during this year’s show, including 161 meat goats, 308 market swine, 277 market lambs, 94 dairy heifers, 52 market steers, 16 breeding heifers, 339 rabbits and 329 poultry. “This year’s fair was the smoothest ran fair that anyone can remember. I have to give all the credit to many volunteers,” said Burson.
At the end-of-week livestock sale, participants sold 109 animals, with 102 individual exhibitors selling at least one animal. The animals sold raised $448,700, with an additional $42,861 raised by individuals and businesses. The junior livestock sale then totaled about $491,561.05.
According to Burson, the biggest sponsors for this year’s event were numerous small businesses that continue to support the youth in the community in projects and educational pursuits. This year’s sale also saw a large increase over last year’s, but Burson stresses that success is not based solely on the sale.
“More importantly, the involvement of the youth and the quality of their experience they have in their agricultural pursuits at the Eastern New Mexico State Fair is a key indicator of success,” Burson said.
Jesus Hernandez has been involved at many levels of livestock care from earliest childhood.
“We sheer them once or twice a year,” he said. “We sell the wool, and we sell the sheep for meat or wool. I’ve helped my dad slaughter sheep and pigs to feed the family. Our first year, we had a wool sheep in the back of our yard. I was so excited. I wanted more and they were going to butcher it.”
He enjoys cooking them.
“I cook lamb ribs,” Hernandez said. “I put them in the fridge for two hours with sauce. Then I put them on the grill for three hours, then I put more sauce on them and put them on the grill again for a couple more hours.”
Along with working his lambs, Hernandez father said he keeps practicing his welding skills.
“He won some money at the fair for his welding work,” he said. “He made a horse head and an angel from horse shoes.”
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Briana Hodge is a sophomore at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. She may be reached at email@example.com.