Documenting lamb's struggle to live earns Nikiski girl recognition

Posted: Friday, April 25, 2008

As Jenna Hansen plays outside with her lamb Cobalt the sun is shining. One would never guess the trouble she's had with lambs in the past.

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Photos By M. Scott Moon
Photos By M. Scott Moon
Jenna Hansen's lambs scatter at feeding time earlier this week at her family's farm in Nikiski. The Nikiski North Star Elementary School student is getting recognition for a video she has made of a newborn lamb's struggle for life.

Last year, eight lambs were born on the Hansen's farm but only three survived.

"Last year was a bad year for lambs," said Jenna's mom, Hara. "It was a very sad year. First it started with Meya."

Jenna's lambs Meya and Haggis were born on a Friday morning and were the first lambs born on the Hansen's farm last year. Haggis was OK, but Meya wasn't.

Meya wouldn't nurse and Jenna had to feed her from a bottle. Although is was a lot of work, Jenna said she enjoyed having Meya in the house.

"We got to stay home (from school) on Monday because we had to take care of Meya and it was fun having a lamb run around the house going clippoty-cloppity, clippoty-cloppity," she said.

On Sunday, Meya stopped eating and her temperature shot up to 105 degrees. Jenna had to sit outside with her to try to get her temperature down and she even took Meya with her to church so that she wouldn't miss a feeding.

On the last day, Jenna had to give Meya shots every thirty minutes per the veterinarian's instructions, but it didn't keep Meya alive. She died four days after she was born.

"I probably had tears in my eyes for a few days. Sometimes I still cry about it," Jenna said. "Three days with a lamb and feeding it every two hours you get really attached."

Jenna, a fifth-grader at Nikiski North Star Elementary, put together a video slide show of her experience with Meya that she submitted to the Alaska PTA Reflections Program. The video, set to the song "Turn, Turn, Turn" by the Byrds, won an award for best intermediate film/video and will move on to national competition.

"The whole sheep thing was just heart-breaking for our whole family, especially for Jenna because it was her lamb," Hara said.

Jenna raises and trains lambs as part of the Junior Market Livestock program through 4-H. She said it was tough to train Haggis because she had spent so much time taking care of Meya.

After spending the summer with their lambs, the trainers take them to the fair in August to be auctioned off, which was hard for Jenna.

"It takes them about a day and they jump back and they're saying 'I wanna do it again,'" said Jenna's dad, Dan.

This year, all eight of the lambs that have been born on the Hansen's farm have survived.

"We were a lot more diligent this year," Hara said, adding that they installed home video cameras so that they could check on the sheep without having to walk outside.

This is Jenna's third year raising stock for Junior Market Livestock and her second raising lambs.

She hopes that things will be easier with Cobalt because she has some experience and she doesn't have to worry about taking care of a sick lamb like Meya.

"(It will be better) since I've been with him pretty much his whole entire life and there were no lambs that needed special care more than he did," she said.

As part of Junior Market Livestock and 4-H, participants attend workshops, meet with local businesses to promote the program and perform two days of manual labor at the fairgrounds before the auction.

Jenna's two older sisters, Megan, 15, and Kayleen, 14, are also involved in Junior Market Livestock.

"This is a life skill thing," Dan said. "We're not raising animals, we're raising kids. They also get common sense ... and it's a heck of a lot of fun."

Dan and Hara both said that they keep their kids in 4-H to keep them active and away from things like Nintendo.

"Summertime is never boring for a 4-H kid," Hara said.

Hannah Halliday was also recognized by Reflections for best middle musical composition.

Hannahlee Allers can be reached at

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