The success Mikayla Ross has had in recent years showing animals in livestock shows as a 4-H and FFA member is worthy of a slight re-writing of an old nursery rhyme.
Instead of the familiar “Mary had a little lamb,” lyrics, the new Ross-inspired poetic verse could read, “… and everywhere that Mikayla went, her lamb was sure to show.”
At this year’s Somervell County Youth Fair, the Glen Rose High School senior and current 4-H president won the Market Lamb Grand Champion award with her entry in the Hair Sheep (Medium Hair) division. She also took first place in the Medium Wool (Medium) category, and earned the Senior Showmanship award for her Medium Wool (Light) entry.
As if that weren’t enough, the A-B Honor Roll student also brought home third place in the Medium Market Goat division.
As a junior competing last year in the Somervell County Fair, Ross was the Grand Champion in Market Lambs and Hair Sheep, won the Southdown class title, and earned the Showmanship award.
Her sophomore year had marked the beginning of her remarkable success, when her Market Lamb entry earned the Reserve Championship in the Glen Rose event.
Somervell County Extension Agent Zach Davis noted that Hair Sheep is a relatively new breed, and said Ross “has been the most successful in recent years of any of our kids at major livestock shows.”
Davis added, “She’s a really hard worker. Mikayla is out there every day taking care of her animals, exercising them. And she is willing to help out younger livestock exhibitors learn how to work with animals and work on their showmanship.”
Ross capped last year’s accomplishments with a thrill at the huge San Antonio Stock Show, where she earned first place in her Medium Wood Lamb class, which included 70 other entries.
“It was crazy,” Ross said, noting that the judge made positive comments about her lamb when he addressed the crowd. “I couldn’t believe that. I don’t think even my parents expected that.”
Ross added to her 2017 haul with a third-place finish in Fort Worth, and 10th at Houston — which has the world’s largest livestock show. This year at the Heart O’ Texas Fair in Waco, Ross notched a Grand Championship and a Reserve title.
Ross, who attended Granbury schools until transferring to GRHS in time for her sophomore year, said that working with her animals makes her “very happy.”
“The favorite part of my day is coming home to mess with my sheep, as silly as it seems,” she said.
ANIMALS DON’T JUDGE
Although she enjoys watching sports, Ross said she was never really interested in participating in them. Her love for animals planted the seed for her interest in competing at livestock shows. She began showing lambs at age 11, at the suggestion of her parents, Jerry and Crystal Ross. They live in Hood County, and her mother works in Granbury while her father drives to work in Stephenville. Mikayla has an older sister, Miranda, who is attending Weatherford College.
“There’s just something about (animals), being around them makes me happy. They don’t judge you like people do, and you can kind of be yourself around them.” said Ross, who wants to become a veterinarian and wants to attend Tarleton State University and then Texas A&M to earn a degree. “I get up at 5 a.m. before school, and feed them. They eat before I eat. After school I’m out there three to four hours — walking them, feeding them and grooming them. It’s definitely very time-consuming. But I enjoy every minute of it.”
Her mother explained that Mikayla’s first couple of years featured “a lot of last places, a lot of hard work with very little success. She was very shy and lacked a lot of confidence in herself. I am most proud of Mikayla because she found her passion, she never gave up and kept working hard.
“She wakes up every morning at 5 a.m. without being told, she feeds all 10 of her lambs and her two goats, and every day after school she works with them until it’s dark, just preparing them for show day, while maintaining a 3.8 (grade-point average in school). I have watched this once-shy little girl blossom into a confident young woman who is fully prepared to be successful in the real world because of the opportunities and the life lessons she has learned in 4-H.”
CHANGED ‘FOR THE BETTER’
Ross said that her winning trend stemmed from sticking with it, learning from others, and “Just me getting tired with losing. I wanted to be in front of the line sometimes. I think that came from my parents. They said, ‘You like this too much to give up.’ I’m very thankful for them.”
She acknowledged that preparing her animals and learning the right way to present them to judges and in front of crowds helped her shy nature fade into the background.
“It just changed me for the better in so many different ways, I don’t know where to start,” Ross said. “It taught me how to speak to people, and it gave me a good work ethic.”