For Turlock High School senior Alexia Nunes, days at the Stanislaus County Fair begin before the sun even rises.
Nunes, who has been involved in the Future Farmers of America program all throughout high school, wakes up every day before 4 a.m. in order to get to the fairgrounds in time to check in on her dairy cattle and dairy goats before the day begins.
“The first thing I do is I pull my cow out, milk her in the milk barn, and tie her up to wash her,” said Nunes.
Nunes then takes her three additional heifers, which she will not be showing, and her six goats and ties them up out of harm’s way in order to muck out the stalls and pins, as well as get rid of any unwanted shavings or straw.
Nunes is responsible for milking her cows and goats twice a day and making sure her animals are clean at all times, which means re-fluffing their hair and washing them on a regular basis. She must also make sure they are given enough food and water, as well as spray them periodically so they stay cool.
“Having animals at the fair builds a lot of character and teaches us the importance of responsibility,” said Nunes. “We see how much time and effort goes into our projects and it really is rewarding to see how it benefits us.”
On show days, Nunes wakes up even earlier to make sure that her animals are “extra clean and sparkly,” and that they look as best as they possibly can before entering the show ring.
After her shows, Nunes is then responsible for washing her animals off and making sure they are comfortable up until the last feeding and watering of the day.
“By the end of the week you are exhausted,” said Nunes.
As if that wasn’t enough work, Nunes must also perform three two-hour “Barn Duty” shifts throughout the 10-day fair, which requires exhibitors to do more than just worry about their own animals.
“On barn duty, you are taking care of every single animal here,” said Nunes. “This means picking up poop out of the straw and making sure the barn looks good so that when judges come through they see a clean barn.”
This is Nunes’ first year showing dairy goats, however, based on her success, an outsider would have never known.
“I was supreme champion in the dairy goat competition, which means I had the overall best goat,” said Nunes.
“My first experience with dairy goats went really well. It was a whole other spectrum and a lot less work than dairy cattle. I plan to continue showing dairy goats in the future,” Nunes said.
Nunes list of exhibited animals includes pigs, chickens, rabbits, and dairy cattle.
In addition to teaching the importance of responsibility, Nunes reported that being an exhibitor at the fair has greatly improved her work ethic and willingness to help others.
“Now I work harder than I have ever before,” said Nunes. “Not only that, but I help out others. It’s not just all about yourself—you have to take care of other people too.”