Monday, October 20, 2014

4-H Project club breeds knowledge

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 4/18/2014

When Jenny Tate was a 4-H’er, she showed every animal except sheep at the fair.

While steers, bucket calves and pigs all have specific requirements to which kids must adhere, she said, no project was more in-depth for her than those “Wascally Wabbits.”

When Jenny Tate was a 4-H’er, she showed every animal except sheep at the fair.

While steers, bucket calves and pigs all have specific requirements to which kids must adhere, she said, no project was more in-depth for her than those “Wascally Wabbits.”

Tate, who now has been involved with rabbits for about 25 years, is one of the leaders of the Wascally Wabbits 4-H project group, which focuses on teaching youths about raising and breeding rabbits. The group includes 4-H’ers from a 4-H district that encompasses Franklin and Osage counties, Tate, Osage City, said.

“It was formed to help educate kids about the project, how to show better, how to pick the breed they desired,” she said. “It’s to help kids get better, not only breed better rabbits, but to get better with the project period.”

While the 4-H’ers involved with the group also do other projects, every monthly meeting for the Wascally Wabbits, which has been around for about five or six years, Tate said, is focused specifically on rabbit projects. The group is planning a rabbit show for this fall.

“We didn’t have one last year because we couldn’t get [Celebration Hall at the Franklin County Fairgrounds],” Tate said. “We did have one the year prior, and I think we had about 350 rabbits. It had judging, it had breed I.D. and it had showmanship, and that takes a lot of time and effort to put together because to have a judging clinic you have to have eight to 10 different breeds. And for breed I.D., you have to have at least 20 to 25 rabbits. The building was full of rabbits from what I remember. This year, we are hoping to still have one. We are just going to have to find a place to have it.”

Animals, including rabbits, no longer are allowed in Celebration Hall at the fairgrounds at 1737 S. Elm St., Ottawa, she said.

Aside from planning their rabbit show, 4-H’ers also have to take care of their rabbits and be prepared for judging at the county fair, which is no easy task, Tate said. Along with grooming, feeding and watering their rabbits, 4-H’ers also learn the wide variety of different breeds of rabbit as well as memorize the different steps of showmanship.

“Between your watering and feeding habits, they are just like any other animal,” Tate said. “The more of a pattern or habit or schedule that you have, the better off they are. I know in the summer, my girls have to go out and water at least three to five times a day, depending on how hot it is. We keep fans on them, all the other kids do too.”

Tate’s daughter, Kilene, 12, is in her third year of rabbits in 4-H and is a member of the Wascally Wabbits club. The Tates have 11 different breeds of rabbits at their home in Osage City, Tate said, which makes for even more work put into the project.

“Our whole entire barn has what we call ‘stackers,’ and we clean them every other weekend,” she said. “It is about a three and a half hour project. We feed our rabbits hay. I know some of the other kids feed their’s hay. I think all of us feed a different kind of feed. It is totally a personal preference.

“The grooming, depending on what type of breed you have, whether they require a lot of grooming or not,” she continued. “My girls have 11 breeds all together. No matter what breed you have, there is still some grooming involved in it, you know, nail clipping, checking their ears ... stuff like that.”

Sheridan, 14, and Cameron Barnes, 11, Wellsville, are members of the project group and have been involved in rabbits for seven and five years respectively. They have two rabbits each and spend a lot of time making sure their furry friends are in tip-top shape for the fair.

“You have to clean their pens once a week and feed them a half a cup of pellets once a day,” Sheridan Barnes said. “My mini-rex drinks a lot, so you have to check his water twice a day. We give them treats like carrots and old-fashion oatmeal like once a week.”

Sheridan’s mini-rex breed, “Andrew,” was her first rabbit and has helped her gather trophies and medals at the fair, she said.

“I like doing showmanship,” she said. “I do it with Andrew because he’s always got me champions.”

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