Triplets to show sheep at county fair

Chad Ludwig, left, and his brother Cody, right, both 11, walk their sheep up the driveway of their Conicville home recently. The two boys and their brother Dillon will show sheep at the Shenandoah County Fair. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Ludwig brothers of Woodstock struggled at birth as micro preemie babies weighing only ounces.

Now, only days after their 11th birthday, the boys will show sheep together for the first time at the Shenandoah County Fair at 8 a.m. Aug. 31.

Showing sheep has been a challenge in the past for Dillon Ludwig. He weighed only 24 ounces at birth, and has suffered from vision, behavior and cognitive problems due partially to a staph infection that prevented an operation during the brief window of time when a medical procedure could have saved his eyesight.

Dillon often has to use a wheelchair and a relative of the Ludwigs has outfitted the wheelchair with a metal brace to secure his Southdown sheep as his wheelchair is pushed into the show ring for evaluation.

“We hope the sheep behaves – and Dillon,” said Carla Ludwig, who works as an assistant meat manager at Safeway in Middleburg and gave birth after 25 weeks of pregnancy to Chad, 28 ounces, Dillon and Cody, 14 ounces, on Aug. 24, 2004.

Wade Ludwig, of Conicville, pushes his son Dillon,11, in this special wheelchair equipped with a metal brace to secure his sheep, in their back yard. Dillon and his brothers will show their sheep for the first time at the Shenandoah County Fair. Rich Cooley/Daily

The family lives on 25 acres atop the crest of a hill perched between the forested slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah County’s Conicville, where they raise 50 Southdown and Hampshire sheep jealously guarded in their outdoor pasture by Louie the llama.

Wade Ludwig, the triplet’s father and meat manager at Safeway in Gainesville, has been breeding and showing sheep for the past 40 years at the county fair, missing only the year the boys were born.

“I guess it’s a hobby that got out of hand,” he said.

He has shared his passion with the boys and both Chad and Cody have shown sheep the past three years, with both winning a second and fifth place finish in two separate showings last year.

Sheep show winners receive priority placement when later in the week they are sold at auction.

“They have been taking care of the sheep since May,” said Wade Ludwig, catching and overcoming the sheep’s natural nervousness so the sheep become submissive to the halter when led into the show ring.

Every day Cody and Chad walk the sheep up and down their quarter-mile long hilly gravel driveway as part of the training, with Dillon sometimes participating as he is pushed with his sheep tethered to the wheelchair’s extended metal brace that functions like a sidecar.

Chad likes to show sheep and collect the money when the sheep is sold while Cody likes “being with my friends.” Both boys attend W.W. Robinson Elementary School as fifth graders while Dillon attends the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in Staunton.

The three boys are close and even with his handicap, their mother said Dillon “likes having someone to play with and fight with.”

Cody’s ambition is to become a teacher and he is already being asked to occasionally help in the classroom, where he likes all his subjects except computer class because “the teacher goes too fast.”

Chad says he “doesn’t know yet” what he wants to do when he grows up, although at one point he wanted to be an astronomer.

Dillon goes once a year to John Hopkins Hospital in Maryland for eye examinations, hopeful that medical advances may someday be able to restore his eyesight, possibly through eye implants.

The boys are excited about the upcoming showing, which is part of the 4-H program at their school, and hanging out with their friends every day until the sheep auction.

“We have to stay around to make sure they don’t get the wrong sheep at the auction,” Cody said.

“They will all go down in the morning and come home late at night,” said Carla Ludwig with a smile, “and I will get some peace and quiet.”