September 26, 2023
KO Student Exhibits Sheep at the Big E
Addisen Nicholson ’25 will show her flock of 17 Shropshire, Southdowne, and Oxford sheep at The Big E, formally the Eastern States Exposition, the largest agricultural event on the eastern seaboard. Staying true to its agricultural roots, it has more than 7,100 4-H and Future Farmers of America participants and 1,100 open-show exhibitors, educational displays, and attractions of livestock and animals.
“My interest in sheep started in 2015 when my dad pulled me out of school to attend the Big E,” Nicholson said. “We watched a sheep show, and I thought, ‘“Let’s give it a whirl and see where it goes.’ It was a new opportunity for me, and I loved animals, and I’m like, of course!’”
To enter the Big E, exhibitors enter verification forms, the date of birth of the breed, all the classifications they are in, and the farm name, which in the case of Nicholson is Sand Meadow Farm in Ellington. Sand Meadow Farm has 45 sheep, but only 17 are in the show flock. Lambs and yearlings under two years of age are shown; if they are over two years of age, they are in the flock for breeding, Nicholson explained.
Nicholson intends to improve her flock continuously. She exhibits meat sheep, which are examined for confirmation and correctness. Confirmation includes the length of the loin and the fullness of the rack. Whereas many exhibitors focus on one breed, Nicholson is branching out into Shropshire, Southdowns, and now Oxfords because she wants to be more well-rounded in her expertise. She explained that the Shropshire and Southdowns are shorn down almost to their skin, and the Oxfords are fitted, so they have some wool on them. The small amount of wool remaining on the Oxfords aids in their confirmation and allows them to look prettier and hide some unwanted qualities.
Nicholson enters farm and junior shows; last year’s event was in Massachusetts, but this year, she and her flock headed to Wisconsin. Although she has yet to garner the “supreme,” the top prize, she earned “grand champion of the breed” for her Southdowns and Shropshire. “When I show, I get a lot of adrenaline,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun, but sometimes you get a little angry if you know your sheep is great and it didn’t do as well.”
During the summer months, in particular, Nicholson’s day starts early. There’s no lounging in bed for her. At 6:00 a.m., she feeds the sheep hay, grain, and water. Depending on the day, she may clean the pens or take the sheep for a walk. Typically, the sheep are shorn three to four times a year, in the spring and summer, and before they lamb in the winter. Shearing takes 10 minutes per sheep, and it can take 30 to 45 minutes when preparing them for a show.
In the future, Nicholson plans to continue to farm and show her flock. She’s interested in colleges with animal science and intends to pursue a pre-vet route. “ It fascinates me how animals are different from humans and how they can differ with disease, which is really cool,” she said. She plans on implementing her knowledge with her flock and conducting research.