Staff Photos: Erin Evans. Sisters Ava and Elizabeth Teasley give a little tender loving care to their twin lambs, Romeo and Juliet, as mama ewe Esther looks on.
COVINGTON -- Newton County has its own Romeo and Juliet.
Twin lambs under the care of Ava Teasley, 10, and her sister Elizabeth, 7, were bestowed those famous monikers following their birth last month. The girls are raising the lambs at the Newton County FFA-FCCLA Center as a 4-H project. Their father, Todd Teasley, is the director of the center.
Ava knew she wanted their names to be from a fictional work of literature. Hansel and Gretel were contenders, but when the lambs were born, "They didn't look like Hansel and Gretel," Ava decided. Her parents wanted the names to be Ronald and Reagan to commemorate the 100th birthday of the late president. But Ava vetoed that proposal and chose the more romantic Romeo and Juliet because, as she said, "They're my babies."
Though the sisters are only in elementary school, they've already racked up numerous showmanship awards at livestock shows, including several on the state level. The two have been raising nine ewes at the barn at the FFA center, and this year, Ava decided she wanted to raise lambs, too.
"I don't like how the boys have to die if you show them as market lambs, so I decided to get all ewes," she said. The ewes have names such as Jezebel and UGA. Just as a side note, Ava's cow is called Peppermint Patty.
The lambs are still black but their wool is coming in, and there's a hint of cream coloring. They'll let the girls pick them right up off the ground or stand two feet on the ground, two on the girls' chests. They even put up with it when Elizabeth playfully attempts to ride them like a horse.
Right now, the lambs' mother, Esther, is doing most of the work to take care of her babies, but at 8 weeks old, they'll be weaned and much of the responsibility will fall to Ava and Elizabeth. They already have daily duties at the barn, cleaning stalls, feeding and watering and working the lambs in preparation to show, which involves teaching them how to brace, or tense up, to show muscle quality. They'll show them in the summer or fall. Both will be shown as market lambs, but Juliet will be spared to breed.
Ava and Elizabeth both said they love going to the shows because the whole family, including mom Lisa, comes along.
Todd Teasley said his girls are learning responsibility early on in life.
"We see it as a good family project," he said.
Newton County Extension Agent Ted Wynne said 4-H does not require students to do these types of projects because many don't have the resources. But he praised the Teasley sisters for their dedication and hard work.
"They are determined to do a good job. At their age level not many kids would take over and take the clippers and groom them themselves, but they will do it," he said.
Ava's goal is to show every species of livestock by the time she's a senior in high school. She's already halfway there, having shown pigs, sheep and cows. She wants to grow up to be an agriculture teacher and one day wants to take over her father's job running the FFA-FCCLA Center.
Such work is important she said, because, "Livestock can teach a lot about life because some of them die and in life that's going to happen a lot. You've got to get used to thinking about that."
Oh, and also, "If we didn't have ag, do you know where we'd be? Naked and hungry," she said with a giggle.