Yampa’s Kayla Rossi shows grand champion market lamb at Routt County Fair | SteamboatToday.com

Yampa’s Kayla Rossi shows grand champion market lamb at Routt County Fair

Kayla Rossi, right, showed the grand champion market lamb at the Routt County Fair on Thursday and Kayla Wille, left, showed the reserve champion. Wille, 13, was grand champion in 2014 and Rossi, 11, took top honors in 2013.

— The depth of the sheep and lamb competitions at the Routt County Fair Thursday was evident from the number of different exhibitors who stepped up to claim blue ribbons in categories from the Breeding Sheep Show to Sheep Showmanship and all seven of the different weight classifications for market lambs. But in the end it came down to a pair of past champions named Kayla.

Kayla Rossi, of Yampa, claimed the coveted grand champion banner in the Market Lamb Show, with Kayla Wille, of the South Valley, showing the reserve champion lamb. Both Kaylas have been grand champions before.

Rossi, 11, also claimed the title in 2013, while taking part in her first livestock show at age 9. She said she was able to regain her title in 2015 by spending a lot of time outside in the barn, where her younger sister, Emily, helped her care for and train 11 fair animals, including five sheep.

"I tried to spend 15 to 20 minutes a day with each animal," she said.

Wille, 13, was grand champion in 2014, and she has a grand plan. She said her goal is to build the genetics of her sheep herd to the point that it consistently produces future prize-winning lambs for 4-H Club members long after she has graduated from high school.

Market lambs may be the rock stars of the sheep competitions, but the luckiest sheep at the fair are the "meat breed ewe lambs," who will live beyond the end of the fair to give birth to lambs of their own and contribute superior genetics to herds such as Wille envisions in her future. Those animals have been hand-picked to produce lambs that will efficiently turn feed into meat.

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Show judge Travis Taylor, a CSU Extension agent from Limon and former livestock judging coach at the university of Wyoming, praised the quality of the sheep shown at the fair in Hayden on Thursday.

"There's real quality in this competition, and many of these animals would be competitive anywhere. I'm not surprised, given the long heritage of raising sheep in this part of the state," Taylor said.

He laid his hands on every animal that entered the show ring during a competition that lasted five hours, evaluating their conformation and the amount of muscle tissue they had compared to fat.

Peyton Parker, 11, of Yampa won a blue ribbon for her meat breeding ewe lamb.

Taylor praised the lamb for her "real nice, wide top."

"Her lambs will have bigger bones and be stronger," he predicted.

Parker wound up winning the grand champion ribbon in the Breeding Sheep Show.

The Routt County Fair continues Friday with the llama show at 9 a.m., the popular "Dress Your Animal Show' at 10 a.m., the Dairy/Beef Breeding show at 12:30 p.m. and the Beef Showmanship competition at 2 p.m., followed immediately by the Market Beef Show.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1