It may be hard to understand for some, especially if raising sheep is not a part of your life, but for many of the participants at the Midwest Stud Ram Sale hosted this week on the Missouri State Fairgrounds, the event is an opportunity for families to come together.
Such is the case for Dr. John Flinchum, DVMPC, his wife Emily, son Johnny and daughter Lizzy, who have been attending the event since before Lizzy was born.
“The first time we came to the show I was expecting Lizzy,” Emily Flinchum said. “That was nine years ago and except for two years we have been coming here each year.
“It’s something that we all look forward to,” she added. “The best part of the trip and the show is the time that we get to spend together as a family.”
For the Flinchum’s the trip is 13 hours from Longmont, Colorado, where Dr. Flinchum has a large animal veterinarian practice he operates out of his home. His wife works as his office manager.
“John’s office is really his pick-up because he travels wherever he is needed for his practice,” Emily said. “I take care of the phone calls but because I am home it allows me the time to home-school the children.
“There really is no set schedule to his days and we never know what each day may bring so having the ability to home-school the children is a something we are both thankful for,” she added. “During the lambing season the kids help and that is something we’re grateful for too.”
Emily explained that both their son and daughter have responsibilities on the farm and that is part of their schooling.
“We all have a part to do on the farm,” Emily said. “As they grow it’s a hard thing to do not to let them be a part of raising the flock but we are always mindful of their age and what they can do.
“Lizzy takes buckets of grain to the lamb pens but we don’t let her feed the large animals yet,” she continued. “She is really good with a pitch fork and a broom and likes to make sure the sheep always look good when people come to visit the farm to see the sheep.”
The family has a flock of 20 ewes and 20 additional lambs and rams.
Lizzy Flinchum has a 6-month-old lamb named Charlotte who she has raised and bottle-fed since Charlotte’s birth in January.
The number in the flock fluctuates as they sell some of their lambs.
“Johnny is growing so much and his arms are getting really long and strong,” Emily said. “He can pick up the bales and help feed the larger animals now and he’s good at catching the sheep when we need them.
“They really know when we need to catch them because they go then, otherwise they’re in our back pocket,” she said with a laugh. “Our sheep know who we are; it makes a difference to them when they are fed and groomed by other people.”
It was through fitting (grooming sheep) that John and Emily first met.
“I was raising Suffolk and John and I met at a show. He started to fit my sheep and that’s how we became a couple,” Emily said. “I don’t have my Suffolk any longer because I wanted to concentrate on one breed and do a better job with it than try to do both and be mediocre on two.”
“We raise Dorsets now,” she added. “John’s father raised horses and it was horses all the time. He saw some horned Dorsets at a county fair in 1974 and that was all it took to help him decide to raise them instead.”
Lizzy said this is her favorite time of the year because the family is spending time together on what her brother describes as a working vacation.
The family attends three shows each year — their local county fair, the Wyoming State Fair and the Midwest Stud Ram Show.
“It was really funny the first year we came when I was expecting a Lizzy we got here and I found out that we didn’t have a hotel room and I probably should have booked one at least a year out,” Emily said. “I found a bed and breakfast on Highway H that we decided to stay at and we’ve been coming back to it every year.
“Each year it’s like we are coming home to grandma’s house and the owners are like family, we send each other Christmas cards and we cry when we leave at the end of the week,” she added. “This show is extra special for us because we have the chance to meet up with a couple of other sheep families who stay there so it really is a blessing for the family.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484