Quickly, she and a classmate realized they needed a halter in order to wash their goats one-on-one. But since they didn’t have one, they helped each other out, first washing one goat while one held it and then washing the other. Vela grabbed a bottle and poured a purple goo onto the goat she’s been caring for for months.
“Is this shampoo?” she asked in surprise seeing it turn the goat’s hair purple. She reached for the bottle to confirm she was doing the right thing.
Vela, a freshman at La Joya High School, was a somewhat rare competitor in the 75th Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show. She’s a first generation, meaning her parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and aunts and uncles haven’t been showing animals their entire lives.
On Tuesday, a competitor with Sharyland High School gave Ellora some pointers on how to show off her goat. He showed her how to brace the goat in front of the judge and how to downplay the defects of the animal while playing up its strengths.
Velma Vela, Ellora’s mother, said she and her daughter have been learning as they go because they don’t have the benefit of generations of experience like other students. For example, she only recently learned about prospect shows, which is basically practice for the students.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not in her blood, Velma Vela said. Velma’s father owned a ranch and it was there Ellora first got a taste of working with animals. She decided she wanted to be a veterinarian and started working with the Texas Agrilife Extension Office towards her goal. That’s how she got involved in the livestock show.
At first Velma Vela was concerned her daughter didn’t have time for it. Ellora is in the top 10 percent of her class, Velma said, and she’s involved in cheerleading and track. But her teacher told Ellora she could start after football season was over, and while that gave her a late start, it let her wrap up the first semester of school.
By that time, most other students already had gotten their animals at market, but Ellora was able to get a goat from one of Velma’s cousins who owns a ranch. Since then, she’s dedicated at least two hours a day to feeding and caring for the animal.
“It renews the spirit as a parent and a community member to see the kids with such a strong ethic,” Velma Vela said. “In one of the workshops she attended, they said they’re producing food that goes into the food chain. There’s not enough coverage about these kids; there’s all this coverage about kids who do wrong.”
Through the process, Velma Vela said she’s learned a lot about her daughter’s passion for veterinary science. Ellora’s become more organized and learned to manage her time to fit all her obligations into her day, she said.
“She’s willing to put in the effort,” Velma Vela said. “Now she wants a horse, and I’m like, ‘How are you going to manage your time?’”
After cleaning her goat, which turned out to have bright white coat after the purple shampoo was rinsed away, Ellora dried the animal off as time clicked closer to competition Wednesday.
She ended up just missing getting placed in the top 10, coming in 11th of 16 competitors.
But already Ellora’s planning for next year. She wants to show two animals. Right now, she’s thinking of two goats, or a goat and a lamb. She considered a pig, but they’re strong and they bite when they’re younger, she pointed out.
The livestock show continues through Sunday, March 16.