Local teens find PA Farm Show success

By on January 16, 2019

Ephrata’s Danielle Oberholtzer (right) with brother Andrew and cousin Bailey Oberholtzer get Danielle’s lamb, Moe, ready for competition at the 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show. (Photos by Art Petrosemolo)

 

This is the final update in a series about local teens raising livestock to compete in the 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show. Correspondent Art Petrosemolo met Danielle Oberholtzer and Jeremiah Snyder mid-summer as they began six months of hard work training, exercising, feeding and handling of their goats and lambs with an eye on the Farm Show junior livestock competition. He introduced us to the competitors mid-summer as they selected their Farm Show animals and followed up with a mid-fall story on their progress with the Farm Show in sight and this article documents with how they fared.

The Super Bowl came early for two local teens when, after months of competition and training like their NFL counterparts, they took their market lambs and goats to Harrisburg and the big stage to match up against the best from across the state in junior livestock competition at the 103rd edition of the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Similar to their NFL counterparts, it was both an exciting and stressful time. For Manheim’s Jeremiah Snyder, 16, it was his eighth Farm Show. For Ephrata’s Danielle Oberholtzer, 19, however, it was her first. On the first full day of the Farm Show, Jan. 5, unlike many visitors who headed first to the food venues, the teens were hard at work in tight quarters in the bowels of the arena — not far from the small show arena — prepping their lambs for scrutiny by top professional judges.

It was the culmination of nine months of hard work for Snyder from winter breeding to the event. He was the veteran. For Oberholtzer, who admitted to being a little nervous right up to heading into the arena, it was her — as well as her brother Andrew, 13 and cousin Bailey Oberholtzer, 14 — first. The three acquired their lambs and goats in late summer from professional breeders and worked together in raising and training the animals.

Both Oberholtzer and Snyder said last summer that their goal for the lambs and goats was to have them selected high in their respective class so they would go into the auction ring where the selling price would be above market value and help them save money for college.

Ephrata’s Danielle Oberholtzer talks with the judge in the competition ring at the 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Unfortunately for both Snyder and Oberholtzer, their cross bred and pure bred lambs, respectively, did not finish high enough to be selected for auction. It was a different story for Oberholtzer’s young partners, Andrew and Bailey. Bailey finished second in a cross-breed class of seven with her 119 pound lamb, and Andrew was fourth in a class of 11 with his 141 pound lamb. Both lambs were selected for auction. Two days later Danielle’s 83-pound Boer goat finished sixth in a class of 12 and was chosen for auction. Snyder’s Boer goat missed being selected for the auction by one place.

The actual auction sale, later in the week, Oberholtzer says, was exciting with individuals bringing their animal to the ring by lot for the auction process.

“The grand champion and reserve champion lambs sold for around $5,000,” she said. The champions’ winning owners receive 25 percent of the auction money while the remainder goes to the scholarship funds for future ag students. For Bailey and Andrew Oberholtzer, their lambs fetched $400 each and Danielle Oberholtzer’s goat sold for $350.”

For the Oberholtzer team, it was quite an accomplishment to have their animals selected for auction while competing in the prestigious Farm Show for the first time.

“It doesn’t happen very often,” Oberholtzer said, “and usually takes three or four trips with livestock to get the hang of what the judges are looking for.”

Having their animals selected for auction was an acknowledgment of their hard work in raising the lambs and goat.

After the show, Oberholtzer and Snyder both confirmed that the professional judges were top notch and demanding in examining and ranking the animals but also kind and helpful in their comments to each competitor on why their lamb or goat did not make the auction cut.

“The judge took time to give me some good pointers on my lamb,” Oberholtzer said, “explaining what kept it from finishing higher in its class.”

Snyder’s lamb was a little lighter than he had hoped and was the smallest in the class.

Manheim’s Jeremiah Snyder grooms his lamb, Mallet, for competition at the 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show.

“The judge explained, besides his weight, the lamb’s hips weren’t straight,” Snyder said, “which is genetic and nothing I could have corrected while raising.”

Snyder and Oberholtzer were well aware that the Farm Show competition was going to be a lot different from the local fairs.

“The entries come from across the state and the competition in each class is fierce,” Snyder said. “Any fault with your animal will be picked up by the judges.”

Snyder and Oberholtzer were not rookies in raising livestock. They both had a long run up to the Farm Show showing and winning with other sheep and goats on the summer and fall fair circuit in Lancaster County. It isn’t easy raising show and market quality animals, and both teens will attest to that with the hours they spent feeding, exercising and grooming their animals for the past several months.

Snyder breeds and raises his lambs and goats at the Herr Family Farm in Manheim. He picked his show entrants from the spring flock of sheep and herd of goats. Oberholtzer who will begin breeding this year, purchased her show animals in late summer from professional breeders.

Both teens also were busy working during the year and attending school while finding time to care for the animals. Snyder is a junior at Manheim Central High School and works milking cows at Baker Hill Farm to save money for college. He hopes to attend Thaddeus Stevens. Snyder also has a number of goats, lambs, and hogs to care for during the week as well as helping his dad with the care and feeding of a beef steer and dairy beef steer.

Snyder still has a few years remaining to compete at the junior level and is looking to the 2019 show circuit for his goats and lambs with an eye to an auction finish in the 2020 Farm Show.

Oberholtzer, a 2017 Ephrata High School graduate, is working this year to earn money for college. She looks forward to a career in the ag world and hopes to start taking college courses in the fall.

A five-year FFA member, Oberholtzer is a veteran showing lambs and goats and has been on the circuit for four years. Oberholtzer animals are housed and trained at Dave and Jen Knowles’ farm in Ephrata. Her Farm Show lamb was a Hampshire purebred. Her goat was a Boer.

Danielle, Andrew and Bailey worked together all fall to care for the animals as well as exercising them several times each week and being sure they were friendly and accustomed to the handling that judges do at any competition.

The Oberholtzers were still excited about the auction finish for their animals days after the competition.

Surprise!

Snyder was naturally disappointed his market animals didn’t place higher and make sale in Harrisburg.

What Snyder neglected to share during the writing of this series is that market animals is not his main concentration. He is a breeder, and a successful one at that.

His accolades in the Shropshire Breeding category were numerous, and included: Reserve Champion Ram in the Junior Class; and in the Open Class (competing against adults), he had the Reserve Champion Ram and Reserve Champion Ewe, and was named Premium Breeder and Premium Exhibitor.

Jeremiah Snyder with one of his Reserve Champion Shropshire Rams.

“It’s my best finish ever in Breeding,” Snyder said. “We had an outstanding year and I’m so pleased that I’ve been recognized as the Premium Exhibitor and Breeder. I’m pleased with the results and thankful for the help and mentoring of my father.”

For all, awards in hand, the 2019 Farm Show will soon be just a memory, and the four young competitors said they will be looking ahead to 2020.

Art Petrosemolo is a freelance feature writer and photographer who recently retired to this area from New Jersey. He welcomes reader feedback at artpetrosemolo@comcast.net.

Panoramic views of the lamb and goat pens at the PA Farm Show.

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