This edition of A Few Minutes is with Wade Franklin from New Mexico, the market judge for the Colorado State Fair Market Lamb Show. Enjoy reading our candid interview with Mr. Wade Franklin and be sure to check back for more state fair judge interviews!
What is your background and current involvement in the sheep industry?
I grew up on a diversified livestock operation. My family has commercial cows, raises club lambs, and when I was young had spotted sows. Currently I manage my late father’s club lamb flock. We run approximately 350 ewes lambing in fall, and from January thru April.
How does your current operation effect what you look for when evaluating sheep?
I try to raise sheep I like. The type and kind of sheep that win under me shouldn’t be that different from what we are trying to raise at home. We are trying to build sheep that have balance, are correct skeletally, are the right size, and have quality. But all this means little to me if they don’t have enough too them. I haven’t forgotten that eventually we are going to eat these lambs and so muscle is very important. Because feed is high and at least where I live grass is short, sheep have to be tough. We have tried to eliminate fragile, hard doing, narrow based and skinny legged sheep and replace them with sheep which are more opened up, easier fleshing, and stouter.
What person/people influenced or helped to shape your view on what the ideal sheep should possess?
My father, Jerry Franklin, definitely influenced me more than anybody. He kept things real simple. I would try to show how smart I was by breaking a sheep down and describing all of his parts and pieces. Then he would always ask, “But is he any good?”
I’ve been lucky to get in a pickup and drive across the country with some really good sheep people and those discussions traveling have molded and shaped what I consider ideal.
Where did you attend college and what awards did you achieve while judging in college?
I attended South Plains Junior College and then Kansas State University. While at KSU, I was fortunate to be a member of a National Champion Livestock Judging Team and was lucky enough to place in the top ten at every contest individually.
What are your initial sorts when evaluating market lambs?
I’m going to study lambs pretty hard when they come thru the gate. I prefer evaluating all livestock on the move. Nobody appreciates a good showman more than me; however, faults are a lot harder to hide while in motion. When a lamb comes thru the gate, I obviously want to determine skeletal correctness and balance but just as importantly I think it is the best time to determine power and base width. I want to sort the men from the boys quickly.
What would you consider an acceptable fat and weight range for a October show?
Fat cover always seems to be a hot topic. Nobody ever handles the Grand Champion and says, “That sheep really handles lean.” People always seem to think the winners are fat. Within reason, I really don’t believe in punishing good livestock because of fat cover. If a lamb has more finish than ideal, I’m more concerned with why he’s fat? Not enough muscle, too mature, too small framed, poor management, or just trying to fool a judge with a common one.
What’s the best lamb you have ever seen? What is the best lamb you have ever judged?
I’d say the lamb that hit me the hardest was at a little jackpot show in Levelland Texas. He was shown by Matthew Cramblett, bred by Shrank Club Lambs. At that time, I had never seen one that stout and that good looking. He later was the champ at the Houston Livestock Show.
What do you think is the most important issue facing the sheep industry today?
I’m not sure about the sheep industry in general but for me trying to raise club lambs, it’s definitely the dwindling numbers at most stock shows. I believe we need to do a better job promoting and talking about junior livestock programs. I believe we need to remember there are a lot of opportunities for kids and their time, so we need to make 4-H and FFA programs more user friendly. Too many rules, stipulations, and restrictions decrease the size and scope of the project. I believe in making it fair but making it a pain in the tail keeps folks from showing.
You can go anywhere on a weeklong vacation, where would you go and who would you take with you?
In a few years, I would love to take my wife, my son who is six, and a home-raised wether to the Houston Livestock Show and “hang a banner.”
What’s your biggest pet peeve in the showring?
I do not care for too much wool on the forearm and above the hock, paint, and whistling or clucking to lambs while showing.
Do you consider yourself more of a handle judge or a profile judge?
I do like handling a good looking sheep.
What is your all-time favorite food?
There is nothing better than a ribeye steak and enchiladas.
Thanks Wade for your time!