WAHOO – There wasn’t much catching involved, but several 4-H families went home with a critter on Saturday.

The 4-H Catch an Animal program, affectionately known as “Catch-a-Critter” for many years, provides a lamp, pig or meat goat to a 4-Her willing to raise and train the animal for their upcoming county fair.

The purpose of the program is to introduce 4-Hers to livestock they may not be familiar with.

“It is to help kids get involved with a species they have never been involved with before,” said Jennifer Pinkelman, who has helped with the program for many years.

Lela Hass, a second-grader at Raymond Central Elementary School in Ceresco, spent a few quiet moments with her goat after it was placed in a crate for transportation. The daughter of Sara and PJ Hass of rural Ceresco has some experience with goats, as her family has two at home that like to follow her around the farm. But this will be the first time she will take care of the goat herself and show it at the fair.

“I’m really excited but kind of scared because (the goat) might be scared of people,” she said.

Before Lela and the other kids could take the animals home they had to complete a mandatory online education video and test that introduced them to the species and taught them how to feed and care for them.

“It gives them the basics,” said Saunders County Extension Educator Cole Meador.

They had to provide a photograph of the area where the animals will live to prove they had an adequate pen and/or shelter for the new family members.

The 4-Hers keep a record book and turn in various forms throughout the summer to update the Extension Service on the animal’s development, Meador said. In June they will be required to attend class on showmanship and fitting.

The program will be completed when fair time rolls around and the 4-Hers bring their animals to the show ring. They will also take part in an interview with the judges.

“The culmination is the physical showing of that animal within its respected species,” said Meador.

Meador said seven families from around the county participated in the Catch-an-Animal program this year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the families couldn’t gather at the same time to catch their animals as they had done in the past. Instead, Meador had to get approval from the state 4-H office to hold the pickup event at all because of the restrictions placed on public gatherings.

He pre-selected the animals for each 4-Her through a random computer drawing, then scheduled each family to attend at staggered times to avoid having more than the prescribed number of people in an area at one time and to help with social distancing.

Prior to Saturday’s pick up event, Pinkelman helped round up the eight pigs, six goats and three lambs for the program. She worked hard to find reputable breeders with quality animals. The goats came from Nebraska City and the lambs were from local breeder Tom Hrdlicka.

“They are all very good representatives of the species that they are,” said Meador.

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