August 31, 2022 at 5:49 p.m.
Thiesen sheep takes supreme champion awards at state fair
Sauk Centre’s Thiesen family has returned from the Minnesota State Fair with multiple top-level awards for their Columbia ewe, Suga. Not only did she take the 4-H Supreme Champion Breeding Sheep Award on Aug. 26, but the next day, she won the Supreme Champion Ewe Award in the fair’s Open Class Show.
For the Thiesen family – particularly Ken Thiesen and his son, Macoy – these victories are both validation of their farm’s quality and promising signs for future competition.
“It’s really exciting,” Ken said. “It’s nice to see that the hard work Macoy and our family have put in the sheep operation is paying off.”
Macoy’s sister, Mauren, had a winning 4-H Supreme Champion Breeding Sheep about 10 years ago, but this year was the first time the Thiesens had gotten the Open Class Supreme Champion Ewe Award. In Open Class, Suga was chosen over 10 other breed champions, and in 4-H competition, she was selected out of 20 other breed champions.
“They bring all the sheep into a line,” Macoy said, recalling his experience in 4-H competition. “Then, (the judge) picked out his top four, and he pulled me and a couple of other sheep. My heart started racing and I was getting excited; the judge was talking for a little bit, and he came up to me, shook my hand and said, ‘You’re the champion,’ and it felt good. It was an awesome experience.”
The Thiesen sheep operation is a partnership between Ken, his brothers, Brian and Stephen Thiesen, and their father, Leland Thiesen. They have raised Columbia sheep for over 40 years, working together to produce, raise and show the sheep.
Macoy has also been working on the farm for as long as he can remember.
“When I learned to walk, I also learned to show sheep with my dad,” Macoy said.
The Thiesens brought their sheep to the 2022 Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul on Aug. 24, spending the next day currying, carding and clipping the sheep to get them ready for the next day’s shows. The Open Class Columbia show occurred the morning of Aug. 26, and the 4-H Columbia show was held the same evening.
“The sheep responds to how you respond,” Macoy said. “Whenever I go into a show ring, I try to be cool, calm and collected beforehand; I don’t want the sheep to know I’m nervous. I try to keep it cool, and then usually they respond pretty well to it.”
It was an emotional experience for Ken when Suga was announced as the Open Class Supreme Champion Ewe.
“We set some goals, some things we’d like to accomplish within our sheep operation, and one of them was to have a supreme champion at the Minnesota State Fair,” Ken said. “To accomplish that felt really, really good and, for us, it was a very big accomplishment.”
Macoy fielded more positive feedback from the judges during Suga’s show in the 4-H competition.
“The judge said she’s just a very put-together sheep,” Macoy said. “It’s exactly what they’re looking for; she’s the right size, she has the right wool coverage, she has good bones, she’s high on her feet, so it was all good characteristics in a sheep you want, all put together.”
After the competition weekend, Macoy went back to the University of Minnesota in Duluth to begin his academic year. The Thiesen sheep will be going to the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky, in November, so Macoy is seeing if he can be excused from classes on those days so he can participate.
Ken is also eagerly anticipating the exposition.
“They call that the Super Bowl of sheep shows,” Ken said. “We feel we have a good set of sheep to take down there, so we’re looking forward to November.”