Every day, two sisters wake up around 6 a.m. and begin their routine, which by the end of the day will include feeding and caring for nearly 60 animals.
Autumn and Brittany Foster took on the responsibility of caring for and working with animals through the 4-H program when they were 8 years old.
This year, the Indian Creek High School FFA officers will be two of 85 4-H’ers that will say goodbye to the organization.
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“When the excitement for this time of year isn’t the same anymore, when that excitement is gone, it’s going to be hard,” Brittany Foster said.
The sisters have loved animals from when they began showing pigs and rabbits in Pee-Wee, a mini-4-H program, at the age of 4, their mother Michelle Hayes said. When they reached third grade, the girls wanted to raise sheep and join 4-H.
Since then, between food for the animals and veterinarian bills, Hayes said the family has probably spent almost $60,000, and the investment was well worth it. Both girls split responsibility between the animals, including the 15 sheep and 11 lambs they raise. The only time their mom lends a hand is when another obligation will interfere with their schedule tending to the sheep.
“My goal was to teach them responsibility and independence, thinking critically, whether an animal was sick or in need, figuring out what they need to do,” Hayes said.
“The money we’ve spent is worth it. There isn’t a dollar amount that could replace what they’ve learned, and the people they’ve become.”
The sisters start working with their sheep, preparing for the fair months in advance. They walk the sheep to build muscle, stage them in the standing position used in judging, and spend time simply petting them to gain the animals’ trust.
“I’m just going to really miss the preparation and excitement getting the sheep ready,” Autumn Foster said.
“The fair is a time to compete and look at the work I’ve put it, but if I don’t win, I’m walking away with my head held high.”
Autumn and Brittany Foster have treated illnesses and injuries, without the help of anyone else. They have delivered lambs, and know how to draw up medicine and give the sheep shots when needed. Many kids would pass those problems onto their parents, Hayes said.
During the winter, they are outside in the cold tending to their animals, sometimes in the middle of the night. When a lamb didn’t have the strength to walk on its own, the girls spent hours building a walker, they said.
The attention and care the animals require make for 18-hour days when combined with school and part-time jobs. They have taken care of their animals when they’ve been ill because they know it has to be done, Hayes said.
“It’s a 24-hours-a-day job. They understand the responsibility and it matters to them,” Hayes said. “When the girls had their wisdom teeth taken out, they were in the barn the next day feeding and taking care of the animals. It’s second nature; they take good care of them.”
During the school year, their days usually start at 6 a.m., feeding and tending to the animals before school. When they’re home in the afternoon, they go back to work with the animals, come in around 7 p.m., finish homework and eat, usually going to bed just before 11 p.m., they said.
The two made it to one football game and sometimes don’t have much free time, they said. But it’s a part of the sacrifice they chose.
When Autumn and Brittany Foster were freshman, they already knew what they were going to do for a living after graduating college. They want to open a top-of-the-line veterinarian clinic in Bargersville.
Both girls are going to Indiana University Purdue University Columbus this fall. Autumn is going for her pre-veterinarian course work, and Brittany is going with plans of obtaining either a two-year, or four-year degree in business so the sisters can open their own facility after Autumn finishes school.
“We’re a package deal,” Brittany Foster said. “We’ve worked together since day one. We’re a pretty good team.”
Aubrey and Brittany Foster
High School: Indian Creek
Major: Autumn, Veterinarian. Brittany, Business.
Activities: FFA officers, 4-H