Village News Reporter
Taylor Michalke, member of Fallbrook’s National FFA Organization, raised a 135-pound lamb, which was selected as the supreme grand champion for the San Diego County Fair’s market livestock show.
“I’ve been working towards it for a very, very long time, so I was very, very happy when I got it,” Michalke said. “It was very unexpected, but it was a great way to end my senior year.”
Michalke, who graduated from Fallbrook High School in June, began showing lambs at the San Diego County Fair in 2016 when she sold a 140-pound lamb at the fair’s auction. She sold a 124-pound lamb at the 2017 auction. Michalke’s lamb at the 2018 auction weighed 127 pounds and won the 4-H Club mediumweight division.
The 4-H Club, National FFA Organization, Grange and independent weight class champions and reserve champions compete for the organization’s grand champion and reserve champion honors. Those grand champions and reserve champions are then in the champion drive which selects the supreme grand champion and supreme reserve champion.
In 2018, Fallbrook 4-H Club member Oscar Ledesma raised both the 4-H Club grand champion and the 4-H Club reserve champion lamb with the 4-H Club grand champion lamb eventually receiving supreme grand champion recognition.
In her fifth and final year in Fallbrook 4-H Club, Michalke raised two lambs for the 2019 San Diego County Fair. Marvel, who weighed 93 pounds and was four months old during the fair, was in the feeder class and took first place among 4-H Club feeder class lambs.
The feeder class lambs are too light to be taken to the auction and do not compete against the champions and reserve champions from the other weight classes for 4-H Club grand champion and 4-H Club reserve champion designation.
A 120-pound lamb Michalke named Denali was the 4-H Club medium weight champion and also gave Michalke the 4-H Club intermediate showmanship championship. Denali became the 4-H Club grand champion while Haley Attig of El Capitan FFA raised a 149-pound lamb, which was named the FFA grand champion, and Ledesma's lamb was given FFA reserve champion recognition. Attig’s lamb was the 2019 supreme grand champion, and Ledesma won supreme reserve champion honors.
In her first year as a Fallbrook FFA member, Michalke raised two lambs. The 2020 market livestock show was virtual, and neither of Michalke’s lambs placed in their class.
Since 2021, the lamb class champions have been based on weight, but there are no official weight classes. Michalke’s 2021 wether, which is a male, Pecan, weighed 121 pounds and placed first in his class. Michalke’s 143-pound ewe, which is a female, Whitney, was second in her class.
Pecan was selected as the FFA grand champion while Attig’s 125-pound lamb was the FFA reserve champion. A 118-pound lamb raised by Fallbrook 4-H Club member Alan Morris was the 4-H Club grand champion. Morris’ lamb was named the supreme grand champion, and Pecan was selected as the supreme reserve champion.
In 2022, Michalke’s lambs swept the FFA grand champion and FFA reserve champion positions. Montana, the FFA grand champion, weighed 142 pounds. JT, the reserve champion, was 135 pounds. Morris once again raised the 4-H Club grand champion and supreme grand champion lamb. Montana was the supreme reserve champion.
This year Michalke raised two Hampshire cross wethers obtained from Rocky & Sons Show Lambs in Fallbrook. Screwball, the supreme grand champion, was born in September. Rocket, who weighed 124 pounds, was born in December. Rocket also placed first in his weight class.
Fallbrook FFA members took the top three positions in Screwball’s FFA weight class. An incoming ninth-grader is able to show livestock at the San Diego County Fair as a FFA member and both Molly Schmierer and Michalke’s sister, Morgan, took advantage of that rule to enter the 2023 county fair as Fallbrook FFA members. Schmierer’s 134-pound lamb was second in the weight class and Morgan Michalke’s 134-pound ewe placed third.
Fallbrook FFA member Chase Bender, whose lamb weighed 121 pounds, also won his weight class. The seven weight class winners including Screwball and Rocket competed for FFA grand champion. Screwball was chosen as the FFA grand champion.
“Very proud of him. I’ve been working with him all year. A lot of hard work was put into him, and he did great,” Michalke said.
Schmierer’s lamb was chosen as the FFA reserve champion.
Michalke and Screwball also won the FFA advanced lamb showmanship competition. That advanced Michalke to the master showmanship competition for all large animals. The market livestock beef, dairy cattle, market goat, dairy goat, lamb and swine showmanship winners do not use their own animals in the master showmanship competition. Michalke placed third.
The master showmanship event took place Sunday, June 25. The champion drive for the supreme grand champion and supreme reserve champion was Thursday, June 22. Morris raised both the 4-H Club grand champion and 4-H Club reserve champion lamb. Valley Center resident Shealey Belardes raised the independent grand and reserve champions. East County Grange member Karstin Wagner had the only Grange lamb in the market livestock show, so the champion drive had seven lambs.
Morris took supreme reserve champion honors with his 109-pound lamb, finishing behind Michalke after edging her out in the previous two years.
“He’s one of my closest friends. We go to all the shows together, and it’s always fun to compete against him,” Michalke said.
The Don Diego Scholarship Foundation associated with the San Diego County Fair awarded Michalke a Junior Livestock Auction Scholarship. A Junior Livestock Auction Scholarship recipient must have entered an animal in the county fair's market livestock show, and it must have placed high enough to earn a blue ribbon and go to auction. That requirement to show an animal and qualify it for auction can have been fulfilled in a previous year. Scholastic grades, extracurricular activities, and fair activity are among the criteria for the scholarship.
A junior livestock exhibitor can only sell one large animal at auction, although if the same person earns more than one organization grand or reserve champion award, both animals are taken to the auction block. This year the auction was Saturday, June 24, and the lambs were sold by head rather than by pound. Southern Contracting Company, which is based in San Marcos, paid $2,300 for Screwball. An animal not sold at auction can be purchased through a barn sale or kept for future showing, and Michalke will show Rocket at subsequent competitions.
Joe Naiman can be reached by email at [email protected].