INDIANAPOLIS – A local high school student earned her biggest livestock exhibition accomplishment yet when one of her favorite animals was honored as the overall grand champion of its breed at the Indiana State Fair last week.

North Decatur High School senior Sammi Brewsaugh earned a massive trophy and banner this month by virtue of her victory in the Grand Champion Meat Goat Wether category in Indianapolis. Sammi exhibited an 8-month-old boer goat wether she called “Larry” en route to claiming the top prize. Also a proficient sheep exhibitor, the 17-year-old took home a Reserve Grand Champion ribbon in the senior sheep showmanship category. The senior category at the State Fair is equivalent to the Decatur County 4-H Fair’s expert division.

Sammi said it took a great deal of hard work to get there, but was happy with her performance as she added another accomplishment to a list that seems to grow longer by the day.

Family business

Sammi, a member of Decatur County 4-H for nine years, is the daughter of Scott Brewsaugh and Kim Slaven, proud parents who have each had a hand in motivating their daughter to reach her goals.

Sammi’s father runs a local goat farm with business partner Kedrick Miller, owner and operator of Thorntown-based Miller Boer Goats. Sammi’s dad’s farm allows her plenty of options when the time comes to choose a competitor for the annual 4-H Fair and has helped the NDHS student foster both a fondness for the animals placed in her care and a passion for exhibiting them in livestock competitions.

Scott Brewsaugh said his daughter chooses which goats she wishes to exhibit in the fair when they are very young in an effort to form a stronger bond with the future show animal. Forging a sort of friendship with the animals is necessary, Sammi said, as doing so is one of the better ways to find success in the show ring.

Old fashioned hard work is another.

After choosing what goats she plans to exhibit in the fair, Sammi begins a strict training regimen to get the animals prepared for July’s local shows. She spends 12 to 15 hours over the course of about four days each week practicing, leading the animals around the backyard of her father’s house. Sammi and her goats perform a few laps around the yard in preparation for the day when the bright lights of the show ring and the intense, discerning gaze of a professional judge are focused on her and her animal charges.

Whether the show is in Decatur County or the much larger stage of the Indiana State Fair, Sammi said her preparation stays much the same.

“I go out there and do the best I can,” Sammi said. “I stay focused on the judge, and if a mistake is made I try to fix it as fast as possible.”

Goat exhibitions involve competitors steering their animals around the show ring with a halter, though the occasionally temperamental nature of the animals ensures the task is not an easy one.

“You have to sort of bond with the animal,” Sammi said.

The accomplished 4-H’er isn’t averse to doing what it takes to perform well in competitions and dedicates much of her free time to the task.

“Working in the barn is my main hobby,” she said, adding that a future in the agriculture field is her ultimate goal.

Sammi said she would someday like to take over operations of the family business after earning her degree in agriculture. She hasn’t decided yet which college she will attend, but she said she fully intends to make a career out of her love of animals and farm life.

In the meantime, she’s having plenty of fun as she enters her last year in Decatur County 4-H.

The adventures of ‘Larry’ and ‘Peanut’

Scott Brewsaugh’s farm typically keeps 50 female goats (known as does or nannies) and a couple breeding males that may result in 70 to 80 kids (offspring).

With dozens of goats growing up on the farm, Sammi’s father said it isn’t at all uncommon for the animals to find unique names bestowed upon them.

One doe is called “Miss Indiana” while another has been named “Miss Kentucky.” Sammi took “Larry” to success at the county fair, and ultimately, the livestock pavilion of the State Fair; but the gentle goat wasn’t the only star from the Brewsaugh farm.

Sammi said the funniest moment of her experiences at the Decatur County 4-H Fair last month was the exuberance of another class-winning meat goat she called “Peanut.” As Sammi showcased Larry in the livestock pavilion, Peanut leapt from behind the railing outside the ring and scurried to meet his owner and his fellow barnyard resident in the show circle. Sammi thinks Peanut’s actions were less about upstaging his friend and more about the special bond between animal and exhibitor.

Further laughs came from the Rocky Balboa-esque training performed by Larry, who proved himself quite adept at walking briskly on a treadmill. Sammi said exercise is another key to success in the show ring.

Peanut’s memorable escapades and Larry’s humorous-but-exhausting workout routine served as moments of levity in a competition Sammi takes very seriously. Having helped raise her goats since their infancy, often bottle-feeding them herself, Sammi said the animals become like pets to her – and letting them go to market after working so hard with them is quite difficult.

But the memories remain.

Sammi says a past goat she called “Carl” was her favorite of that species due to his personality. The 4-H’er said each and every goat has been unique as have the sheep she’s shown for several years. Her favorite lamb, which she called “Diesel,” was front and center in Decatur County livestock exhibitions in 2012 and made an impression at the state level too.

Having a close relationship is very important when showing the animals, Sammi said, and she appreciates the challenges in making that important connection. A member of her school’s livestock judging team, Sammi feels she tends to connect better with goats but is more proficient at showing sheep. Excellence in both has earned her entry to the Tom Swain Memorial Showmanship Contest, the most prestigious such event in Decatur County. She’s taken second place in the competition twice and says winning it is her next big goal.

Cause for celebration

Sammi and her family will be treated to a special program this Sunday evening at the State Fair’s Celebration of Champions. During that time, Sammi will have the opportunity to be introduced to the large crowd, entering the show ring by herself. Each student was allowed to choose a song for their introduction and the NDHS senior chose “Hall of Fame” by The Script on the basis of its lyrics. The song encourages people to follow their dreams and meet their goals.

After finishing up at the State Fair Sammi and younger sister Maddie, 7, will start preparing for the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE) slated for November in Louisville, Kentucky. Sammi is also a veteran of that competition and has been tutoring Maddie in the fine art of livestock exhibition. It’s an activity Sammi says requires patience and understanding.

Sammi’s parents are proud of her accomplishments and have happily watched their daughter’s expertise grow by leaps and bounds throughout the years – in much the same way Sammi hopes to see Maddie progress.

“She’s had a lot of success,” Scott Brewsaugh said. “It’s been like we’ve been climbing the ladder. Sammi’s really, really worked hard for this moment.”

Mom Kim Slaven and older sister Marti Brewsaugh said Sammi’s skill makes the livestock exhibitions fun to watch. “She just gets in the zone,” Sammi’s mother said. “She’s fun to watch.”

Scott Brewsaugh feels the friendships Sammi has made throughout her 4-H career transcend even her mountains of ribbons and trophies she’s accumulated.

“It’s not all about the banners and the trophies,” he said. “It’s about the relationships and the friendships. Those are the memories that will last a lifetime.”

Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056; brent.brown@greensburgdailynews.com