“You’ve got to have passion for it,” she said. “You can’t give up when things get tough. If you want to get better, you have to work for it. I didn’t care — I could have had the ugliest lamb out there, but I was going to show it like it was the best thing on earth.”

Ravin Louque has shown livestock since she was 9 years old. And for most of that time, she has dreamed of winning a sheep contest at the LSU AgCenter Livestock Show.

Louque was nervous in the days leading up to this year’s show. As a high school senior, it would be her last chance to reach the goal she had tirelessly pursued for nearly a decade.

She did it, winning the reserve grand championship — equivalent to second place — in the market lamb contest of the 83rd annual show, which was held Feb. 10 to 17 at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales.

“I am not disappointed at all that I got reserve,” said Louque, an 18-year-old 4-H’er from St. James Parish. “It was literally the best thing of my life because I’ve been wanting to have that moment for so long.”

Getting there took years of hard work and perseverance. Louque taught herself most of what she knows about livestock, and since sixth grade, she has taken care of her animals on her own.

Louque’s lambs have won at smaller parish and district shows, and she received a first-place award for showmanship skills at a previous AgCenter state show. But she left many market contests — which judge the quality of animals — empty-handed over the years, watching other exhibitors walk away with prize ribbons and belt buckles.

“I never had the best sheep, ever,” Louque said. “I always had the sheep that was like, ‘I’ll let you show for fun with it.’”

She refused to let that discourage her.

“You’ve got to have passion for it,” she said. “You can’t give up when things get tough. If you want to get better, you have to work for it. I didn’t care — I could have had the ugliest lamb out there, but I was going to show it like it was the best thing on earth.”

Louque brought two lambs to this year’s show. The animal that ultimately won did not always strike her as championship material.

“He didn’t win my parish or district. My other lamb did,” she said. “When he came here, it was like he transformed into a different lamb. It was like, this must be a sign.”

When the judge pointed to Louque and named her the reserve champion, Louque was overcome by a “wave of emotions,” she said. Fellow 4-H’ers from her parish rushed across the show ring to congratulate her.

Her victory marked the first time a St. James Parish 4-H’er has won a state sheep contest.

“I was thrilled beyond all measure. She’s worked so hard,” said Ken Guidry, the AgCenter 4-H agent in St. James Parish. “We all cried.”

Guidry remembers when Louque entered a dog in a pet show — her first foray into animal projects — as a shy young 4-H’er. She soon advanced to showing rabbits, then sheep and hogs.

“Ravin was just a little girl when we started,” Guidry said. “She’s matured into a person who can go into the ring with confidence. This just shows with hard work and some dedication, you can go really far in life.”

Louque said she has learned valuable lessons through 4-H. In addition to livestock projects, she has been involved in club fundraisers and financial fitness programs. She also helps with the parish’s dog show.

“It’s taught me responsibility, how to be social with people, what things mean in life, how you have to work for something that you want,” she said.

She spends much of her time outside of school caring for her pig and four lambs. She wakes up at 5:30 a.m. every day to feed them. After coming home, she stays busy with chores in the barn until 10 p.m.

“Getting eaten by mosquitoes or freezing to death, it doesn’t matter,” she said. “It had to get done. It’s like a baby. You have to take care of it.”

Louque said she is grateful for the guidance of a family friend, who has taken her to livestock shows in other states and helped her prepare for her own shows, as well as the support of her 4-H family.

She showed in the market lamb contest alongside three other girls from St. James Parish.

“They’re younger than me, and I know they look up to me,” she said. “We have such a good connection. … We’ll help each other get our animals ready, not worrying if they’re going to beat us or not.”

With high school graduation approaching, Louque is trying to decide on a college major. She is thinking about becoming a large animal veterinarian or an agriculture teacher.

“I definitely want to stay involved with kids,” Louque said. “Just working with my parish and everybody that I’m going to miss so much, the people I showed with and how much everybody makes an impact on each other — it’s awesome. I want to be around that forever.”