Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on August 23, 2020 at 12:00 PM by Global Reach

As staples to the Washington County Fair sheep project, Dave Birney and Duane Sprouse can typically be found in the sheep barn or in the Extension office mulling over show orders during fair week. Both have served as sheep project superintendents for 48 years; they’ve seen it all and continue to work tirelessly to improve the overall experience for youth. Dave Birney and Duane Sprouse

Birney is a Washington County alum. He grew up in an active 4-H family and carried on the tradition upon meeting his future wife, Linda, on a youth trip to Washington D.C.

Sprouse became involved with the 4-H program during his time as an ag. instructor. With no prior experience of raising sheep himself, Sprouse suggested raising sheep to an FFA member in need of a project, which in turn, sparked his own interest in the species. His own kids started out their 4-H careers by raising sheep and have never looked back. As a family, they have grown their expertise and now sell show lambs themselves.

The duo recalls a point in time when sheep and ground hogs were held in with wooden gates on a bed of straw and remark about how much things have changed since then! Together, they led the refurbishing of the sheep barn, including the installation of all new concrete and pens. They also oversaw the addition of a new wash rack to the facility as well.

They commented that “[We have] made as many opportunities for kids that we could.” One such addition is the class known as Premiere Exhibitor, which seeks to recognize 4-H sheep exhibitors who can articulate their understanding about the future of the animal industry and their knowledge of animal production. Youth are quizzed, interviewed, and evaluated on their showmanship as they compete for overall winner in each age division. Serving as a rich resource for sheep project families, Sprouse leads several successive pre-fair sheep workshops each summer.

A special 2020 family lamb class, “Ewe Raised Me Right”, has been created to honor the work of Birney and Sprouse. When asked why they have maintained their commitment to the Washington County 4-H program for so many years, Sprouse answered, “[The] kids. It’s always about [the] kids.” He went on to say that, “[the] pay over the years was the smile.” A flood of smiles are expected to be found around the show ring as current 4-Hers and alumni of the sheep department thank Birney and Sprouse for their many years of service.

Categories: Washington

There are no comments yet.
Add Comment

* Indicates a required field

© 2024 Iowa 4-H Foundation. All Rights Reserved.