Wright County home of state’s biggest ram
CLARION – It would be an understatement to say Leonard is big.
The 3-year-old Suffolk ram weighed in at 432 .5 pounds winning the title of the 2009 Iowa State Fair’s Big Ram contest.
Leonard’s owner, Kelly Hammen, of Clarion, bought him with intention of fattening up the 200-pound critter and sending him to slaughter.
“Then he just kept getting bigger and bigger,” Hammen said, “and I looked at my dad and said, ‘We need to take him to the state fair.'”
Within nine months, Leonard, named after a character from the prime-time show “The Big Bang Theory” because of his “nerdy” look, consistently ate 10 pounds of corn screenings and protein feed from a self-feeder.
But it seems Leonard was predisposed to his day of gluttonous glory.
“It’s all about the [body] frame,” Hammen said. “It’s hard to have them this big.”
And apparently there are quite a few rams bred with gargantuan frames since Leonard had competition from eight others across the state, including last year’s winner “Vette” a Hampshire ram shown by Daryl Mickelson of Bouton.
“I think Mickelson appreciated having some new competition,” Rick Hammen, Kelly’s father, said. “Like anyone in a competition, he was glad to have someone else give him a run for his money.”
Mickelson wasn’t the only familiar face in the competition. The Hammens’ family friend Rick Oven put his ram up against Leonard, too.
“He gave Kelly a hard time,” Rick Hammen said. “He sheared sheep for us before, and he told her there was no way he could win now that she was in the ring. Everyone was very nice, and it was all in good fun.”
Even though Kelly Hammen is a 4-H and FFA veteran, she was a little nervous before entering the show ring.
“I’d never shown at the state fair before,” Kelly Hammen said. “It was a new experience for me. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself.”
Luckily, Leonard captivated the judge, perhaps because this isn’t Kelly Hammen’s first experience with fattening-up her animals.
She still holds the Wright County Fair record for cattle rate of gain at 4.42 pounds a day. It seems Kelly Hammen was destined for this day as much as Leonard.
“You just have to look at the frame you want and hope,” Kelly Hammen said. “We didn’t use any growth hormones.”
One cannot plan a rate of gain. It rests more on the animal and its appetite rather than anything an owner can do.
Since Leonard has proven himself worthy, Kelly Hammen is planning on entering him again.
“I’m really competitive,” Kelly Hammen said. “I want to beat the record which is 480 pounds.”
But Leonard and his body need a bit of a rest before he begins packing on the pounds again. Since winning he’s already lost 10 pounds and the Hammens are putting him out to pasture for a bit.
“Then as soon as the snow flies, we’ll get him back on the feeders,” Kelly Hammen said.
Until then Kelly Hammen will finish her animal science degree at South Dakota State before returning home to take Leonard for another shot at a big ram championship.
Since Kelly Hammen is 22 and qualifies for the open class, she and Leonard can compete until the ram creates a new record.
“I can keep showing,” Kelly Hammen said, “until I’m crippled and can’t walk anymore.”
Contact Lindsey Ory by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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