First Born

Rachal Hansen helps build a lamb legacy

The twins were born in the night last week, and Rachal Hansen hovered over them the next day like a proud mom.

The twins are lambs, and Rachal’s not their real mom of course, but she seemed more excited than Daisy, the big ewe who sat near them in the pen and grumbled at anyone who came too close.

“I’ve been waiting for so long,” said Rachal, a junior at Hood River Valley High School. “I came in this morning to check on them and here they were.” Daisy’s twins, born the night of Feb. 9, are the first lambs to be born in Rachal’s Supervised Agricultural Experience Project, part of the FFA program at the high school.

Rachal came up with the idea of doing a sheep breeding project after her freshman year in FFA. She lives with her family in Hood River, and found herself having to drive many miles out into the valley to find a lamb to raise for the county fair. She had to board it in the valley as well.

Rachal didn’t sell her market lamb at the fair that year, so she decided to start a breeding project.

“I wanted to do it so other kids don’t have to do what I did,” Rachal said. Last spring, Rachal bought three more ewes, for a total of four. She bred them in September and three of them got pregnant.

In addition to the breeding project, Rachal started a fund-raising campaign to raise money to expand the FFA Agricultural Land Laboratory at the high school. The Land Lab, located at the west end of the school, consisted of a greenhouse, a small barn and shed, and outdoor pig pens. Rachal sent letters to dozens of area businesses and individuals seeking donations to create a 1,500 square foot fenced sheep grazing area and a pole building.

Rachal raised more than $4,000 in cash and materials. The pasture was completed last fall, and Rachal and her dad built the pole building over Christmas break.

Rachal’s four ewes, along with one more owned by another student, are all housed in the Land Lab’s barn. The lambs will be ready to sell by April or May.

“Kids can have them in time to get them ready for the fair,” Rachal said.

Megan Prewitt, HRVHS FFA advisor, encouraged Rachal to pursue the project but gives all the credit to her.

“It creates lots of opportunities,” she said. “It opens up a whole new world for suburban kids.” Having the sheep right outside the school in the Land Lab — along with pigs — allows students to have much more hands-on experience, she said.

“If we’re talking about animals in class, we can now go out and see them,” she said.

Rachal hopes to do some more upgrades to the Land Lab before she’s through, leaving the sheep facilities as her legacy when she graduates next year. She plans to breed her ewes again next fall to produce another round of lambs to sell next spring.

As for the twins, and the other lambs soon to be born, she’ll watch over them like a mother until they’re ready to be sold. There’s one thing Rachal won’t do, though.

“I’m not going to name them,” she said. “I’ll get too attached.”

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