SAN BENITO — It was only her second livestock show, but she made it count.
“Way to go Desiree,” shouted onlookers as Desiree Varela, 16, led her prize lamb away from the arena. The judge at the Tip-O-Texas Livestock Show had just named her Southdown Lamb “Reggie” breed champion.
The show at the Sonny Brazil Agricultural Complex is a competitive event where students from Cameron and Willacy counties present their livestock projects.
The show Thursday included the judging of goats, lambs and breeding cattle. It concludes today with students presenting their market hogs.
Young agriculture aficionados led their lambs into the arena. The students gripped ropes against their struggling feet as they positioned their animals. The judge approached and ran his hands over their backs and sides.
Desiree was pleased with the result of the judge’s inspection.
“I feel excited,” said Desiree as she struggled with Reggie.
She was the prize lamb Thursday, but it didn’t start out that way. At her first show she’d placed a disappointing fourth.
How did she make such a comeback?
“A lot of practice and exercising with the lamb, and I feel she has good mass,” she said with a broad tired smile across her face.
This may have been her second livestock show, but this is the first year she’s participated in the activity.
“I have been wanting to do it,” Desiree said. “I just want to get closer to animals and give them the best life they can have.”
Others, like Katie Partida, are veterans of livestock shows.
“I’ve been doing it for nine years,” she said while leading her fine wool lamb Tebow from the arena.
Katie, 16, had just won breed champion.
“It’s a great opportunity to prepare myself for the Mercedes Livestock Show,” said Katie, a junior at San Benito High School.
“I walk him every other day, and I clean him so he stays white,” she said.
What’s kept her coming to livestock shows again and again?
“I meet a lot of people, and it’s good exposure for me,” she said. “It’s not easy. I learn from my mistakes and I keep pushing.”
Desiree’s father, Alex Vasquez, said he hopes she continues her participation in livestock shows.
“Her studies have already been fine,” he said. “This gives her something to do, something to take care of, teaches her responsibility.”
And by the looks of things, she’s learning well.