Some of my absolute favorite memories in life have been made while interning or volunteering. I absolutely love it and this weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Royal Melbourne Show! The RMS is like a huge carnival with trade shows and games and food and lots of different pavilions. I signed up to work in the Heritage Sheep Exhibit for 2 days.
My time was spent making sure the sheep had enough feed and water all day and were not being stressed or abused by any onlookers. I was also able to answer the questions that members of the public had regarding the exhibit, breeds, and sheep farming in general. Most people were quite excited to hear my accent and asked about my background in agriculture in Canada.
My supervisor and I were required to keep the area neat and tidy and free of all escaped bits of straw—this included some frustrating sweeping between the legs of thousands of people!
All of the sheep came from different breeders and so they were not allowed to intermingle. The Cheviots were very sweet and appreciated a scratch behind the ears. The two Shropshire lambs required bottle feeding a couple times a day; their names were Pickles and Beeper.
At the end of my second shift we had to muck out all the stalls. For those who don’t know, this means that we had to take a pitch fork and pick up and remove all the heavy soiled straw from the pens and sweep it out into large piles to be removed. We then had to break up new bales of fresh straw and lay this down as clean bedding in each pen before the sheep are allowed their supper. This is hard work, especially when you have to watch the sheep don’t escape! By the time I got home that night my boots had been stuffed FULL of straw (which promptly exploded all over the hall of my apartment)!
I did hear a few rumors that the Heritage Sheep Exhibit might be on its last legs and be non-existent in a few years. This is heartbreaking news to hear as ag education is something very dear to my heart. I think it is SO important for society to be exposed to livestock, farming, food, agriculture, etc. People need to be educated on where their food comes from and how it is produced. Amazing shows like this provide a fantastic learning opportunity for curious people to learn more about something they are unfamiliar with. Since the wool industry is massive in Australia I think it is very important that exhibits such as this one remain in place!
I had a fabulous experience volunteering in the sheep exhibit; I was able to pick my supervisor’s brain, get some hands on experience with sheep, practice my agriculture/public engagement, and do some networking. I love making connections and I’ve met some very kind and helpful people this weekend. I hope to be back working at the show next year.