9-year 4-H’er to write fair diary for The Tribune

Open dairy goat, pig and sheep shows this weekend will set the stage for a busy week at the Jackson County Fair for Brocker Bottorff.

On Sunday, the opening day of one of the county’s largest events, the 17-year-old Brownstown Central High School senior also will work in the Young MacDonald’s Farm building, which is operated by the county’s FFA chapters.

Monday is a big day with pig weigh-in and rabbit, chicken and gilt shows and showmanship. He also will help his younger sister, Brooklyn, fit her boer goat.

On Tuesday, his only event is the barrow show. On Wednesday, he has dairy cattle and sheep shows. On Thursday, he has the dairy goat show.

Friday is another big day with quiet barn time, the parade of champions, supreme showmanship and Battle of the Barns.

Finally, the county fair week will wrap up with the livestock auction Saturday.

The next day, he will go up to the Indiana State Fair to continue his busy summer.

Considering how much he is involved with, the nine-year Jackson County 4-H’er is the perfect person to write the fair diary for The Tribune this year, sharing his experience in the newspaper on a daily basis.

So how does he have time for everything at the fair?

“I don’t know. It’s a lot. It takes a lot,” he said, smiling.

“It’s pretty much his life is sunup to sundown doing something animal-related,” his mother, Melissa Bottorff, said. “That one week it was so hot, him and I didn’t go to bed until midnight, 1 o’clock because we had to keep this barn open, keep check on (the animals), make sure they were watered and fans stayed running.”

It’s a lot of long days and late nights, not only leading up to the fair but all year long, Brocker said.

So why do it?

“Probably the connection with the animals,” he said. “I really like the connection. They are really like a friend because you spend so much time with them and you get to take them out, and also, I do it to see new friends and see people all across America.”

From Monday to Thursday next week, Bottorff will compete in 4-H livestock shows. He’s in his ninth year of showing rabbits, chickens and dairy cattle, and it’s his ninth year of doing the pocket pets project.

He will have 10 to 15 rabbits of various breeds, including Dwarf Hotots, Holland Lops and Tan.

“I’ve always had the interest for rabbits,” he said. “Then I heard of a senior that was selling out, so I went and bought all of their Holland Lops. Then from there, I started breeding, and we kind of got away from Holland Lops and got into a couple different breeds. … They are just loving. They are not as hard, and you don’t have to push them as hard as what you do for a bigger animal. When you go out there, it’s easy to take care of.”

Bottorff is taking 12 chickens to this year’s fair. Breeds include Wyandotte bantam, Old English Game and Cochin.

“My great-grandpa, he had chickens, and then he passed away, and he always said that I could have the chickens, so I got those chickens,” he said.

“I decided that I wanted to go a little bit farther, so I started to get some show chickens. Then from there, we started to go to a couple different open shows and went to county fair and I started breeding a couple, and it has just gone from there,” he said. “They are easy-going, and they are not that hard to take care of other than having to bathe them.”

Dairy cows have been a family thing, as Brocker’s older sister, Breonna, showed them during her 10 years in 4-H. This year, Brocker is taking two or three to the fair.

“My grandfather passed away, and we got one of the last of the calves, and that’s what started it,” Melissa said.

“Now, we have our own herd, and we don’t milk anymore as what we used to,” Brocker said.

Pocket pets is a project for the 4-H building, including birds, hamsters and fish, and requires 4-H’ers to make a poster about their animal of choice.

This will be Brocker’s fifth year of showing dairy goats and sheep.

He will have 10 goats, including Alpines, Recorded Grades and LaManchas. He started with that animal five years ago after winning a goat in a giveaway at the fair.

“You have to enter for the drawing, and then if you’re picked, you have to go to a couple meetings and see that there’s actually interest that you want to be into goats,” Brocker said. “They give you a goat, and the following year, you have to give a goat back.”

That’s conducted by the Jackson County 4-H Goat Club and is for 4-H members who want to start showing goats.

“I just thought dairy goats were more interesting,” Brocker said. “You get to spend more time with them, and so you have to be with them pretty much twice a day if you have a milking goat. That’s what I like with it is the bond and the strength that is built between you and the goat.”

He also followed in Breonna’s footsteps in showing sheep.

“It’s one of those things where you have to have a lot of patience and you’ve got to be very calm with them and collected,” Brocker said. “There’s a lot that goes into them.”

Finally, this will be his second year of showing pigs, the first time being in 2020. He has two barrows and a gilt, all crossbreds.

“I just had a couple people come to me and ask if I could show for them and if I would be interested in getting back into it, and I said, ‘Yeah,’” he said. “I’ve always had the love for pigs, and we’ve always just had a connection. It’s just easy for me to grab a whip and show.”

In the past, Brocker also has done electric and vegetable projects for 4-H. Melissa said her son’s goal by his 10th year is to carry every livestock species, and he’s only missing beef.

“That’s a pretty big one to tackle. That’s a lot,” Brocker said, smiling. “I really want to do that.”

Brocker is a member of three 4-H clubs — Jackson County 4-H Goat Club, Jackson County 4-H Rabbit Club and Junior Leaders. He has been in the first two for five years, and he has been the Junior Leaders’ Jackson County 4-H Council representative in his two years in the club.

Also for fair week, Brocker helped set up the Young MacDonald’s Farm building and will spend time volunteering there. His projects on display include farm life photography, vegetable basket, flower basket, flowerpot, corn, soybeans, mixed hay, alfalfa, wheat and sheep wool.

He’s in his fourth year of FFA at BCHS, previously holding the positions of treasurer and vice president before being selected president for the 2022-23 school year.

“We’ve got a lot of new freshmen coming in, so I’m excited to get them active and get them in different contests and get them active around the community,” Brocker said.

Outside of fair week, Brocker competes in open shows and state fairs in Kentucky and Indiana with goats, pigs and rabbits throughout the year.

Given all of his dedication, his parents, Melissa and Brian, are very proud. Melissa said Brocker has only had two times this summer where he’s done something fun outside of taking care of animals. One was kayaking with friends, and the other was watching a good friend show livestock in Jefferson County and helping her prepare for a round robin competition.

“When these goats are milking, he gets up every morning faithfully before he goes to school, before he goes and does anything, milks these goats, takes care of all of these animals, does countless days of four and five hours of sleep,” Melissa said. “He loses a lot of sleep. Most kids at this age would rather be running around, but he’d rather be right here messing with these animals.”

Brocker remains dedicated to all of it because he wants to be a 10-year 4-H’er like his older sister and mother. Melissa’s two siblings also were in 4-H for 10 years, and the plan is for Brooklyn to do that, too.

“I didn’t make them do it. It was something that they did on their own,” Melissa said of her three kids joining 4-H. “I’m glad because honestly, I’ve seen so much benefit out of it.”

Bottorff file 

Name: Brocker Bottorff

Age: 17

Residence: Dudleytown

Education: Going into his senior year at Brownstown Central High School

Organizations: 4-H, FFA

4-H clubs: Jackson County 4-H Goat Club, Jackson County 4-H Rabbit Club and Junior Leaders

County fair 4-H projects for 2022: Pigs, rabbits, chickens, dairy goats, dairy cattle, sheep and pocket pets

County fair FFA projects for 2022: Farm life photography, vegetable basket, flower basket, flowerpot, corn, soybeans, mixed hay, alfalfa, wheat and sheep wool

Favorite fair foods: Taco salad at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Taco House, anything at the St. John’s Sauers Lutheran Church booth and a twist ice cream cone or elephant ear on the midway

Future plans: Possibly taking a year off to show animals and explore being a farm manager and then studying to work in the veterinary or agriculture education field

Family: Parents, Brian and Melissa Bottorff; sisters, Breonna and Brooklyn Bottorff