Student agriculturists will once again exhibit their livestock and their showmanship at the annual Junior Livestock Auction, while giving the public a rare opportunity to bid on a high-quality, natural product – all in support of California’s number one industry: agriculture.
Even if these last six months of devoted animal husbandry don’t result in an award, this year’s 164 competitors, ages 9-19, will all walk away with increased self-esteem and more marketable skills, earned through hard work and heavy lessons, said Lone Pine High School Future Farmers of America Chapter Advisor Brenda Lacey.
Though FFA students, 4-H members and independents from Inyo, Mono and Alpine counties and parts of Nevada will be in stiff competition, it won’t be all work and no play Wednesday, July 11 through Saturday, July 14 at the Eastern Sierra Tri-County Fairgrounds.
There will be prizes, a chance for kids to catch up with friends they haven’t seen for a year and other festivities. (See A-5 for a complete schedule of events.)
The young agriculturists’ rabbits, poultry, sheep, goats, swine and beef will be judged in various categories, based on current market trends, on Wednesday and Thursday. Then it’s the young graziers turn. The competitors will be judged Friday and Saturday, on their showmanship under pressure, including: grooming and presentation, control over their animal, and ability to show the animal’s best features to make their livestock as appealing to the judges as possible, explained Lacey.
In the Master Showmanship event on Friday, first- and second-place showmanship winners compete, each showing a lamb, a pig and a steer, as they vie for the Master Showmanship award.
The event “moves quickly. It’s action-packed,” said Mt. Tom 4-H Community Leader Sally Symons. “Showmanship is something you have control over, whereas the market class judging really depends on the genetics of the animal,” she added.
Symons said she has watched kids grow as people, improving year after year. Kids who were so shy a few years ago, she said, now rank in the top of their age group of 9- to 13- and 14- to 18-year-olds.
In the Cattlemen’s Judging Contest next Saturday, July 14, exhibitors will cultivate livestock judging skills. After being tutored on the most and least desirable qualities to look for, the age-grouped judges will each rank four beef, four pigs and four hogs, in first through fourth place, explained Fair Secretary Rebecca Bragdon. The kids will also have to state the reasoning behind their choices.
The July 14 Beauty Contest will show off the kids’ creativity when they and their animals don costumes, said Bragdon, and the Little Britches Showmanship event will allow kids 8 and under, who aren’t yet eligible to exhibit animals, to show someone else’s animal.
The auction, held in the Sale Barn on the east side of the fairgrounds in the livestock area on Saturday, is the culmination of the youths’ many months of dedication, financial investment, lessons and labor.
“The public will bid on local, natural product,” said Lacey. “The goal is to provide an excellent product which has been ideally raised, (having received) one-on-one care which even a family-owned ranch animal doesn’t get.”
Auctioneer Richard Reel has called this event for 11 years. He said this auction is different from any other simply because it only happens once a year so he wants to get “every dime” for the kids. “I like it better than Christmas,” said Reel, adding that it’s such a worthwhile event because the youth learn about responsibility for and interaction with animals in a way many never get to do. “Some kids come into FFA never even having had a dog at home,” Lacey agreed.
“My job is to support every kid that goes to the auction,” said Bishop Veterinary Hospital’s Dr. Carl Lind, by bidding on every animal to create a bottom price. Serving as the event’s proxy bidder since 1971, Lind bids for parties who don’t attend the auction themselves. He also manages resales and consolidates purchases of a single animal by multiple parties. This is especially helpful for people interested in pooling their money to buy one animal. “I’m happy to buy any animal for anybody at any price,” said Lind.
The public gets to bid on “high quality” animals because the young exhibitors have a lot invested come auction time. After doing a great deal of prep work, the kids buy their animals and embark on a six-month commitment tending to their animals’ every need, said Lacey. They have put in a minimum of 2-3 hours a day, rain or shine, feeding, exercising, grooming, bathing, providing sanitary shelter, giving medications, etc., she said. And that doesn’t include school, sports, work and family commitments. The kids also attend regular agricultural and showmanship presentations.
Although the animals must go, the lessons stay, said Lacey. The youngsters learn a wide range of life skills with an “emphasis on hands-on learning,” she said, learning about: animal husbandry and livestock selection; time and financial management (gross/net profit); and salesmanship – writing letters to potential buyers, meeting them and sending thank-you letters. In this way they learn to “sell themselves to colleges or potential employers.”
The youngsters also learn to problem-solve; write a business plan and budget; submit loan applications; make timely loan payments and build a positive credit. “It’s a lot of work but there are a lot of rewards,” said Lacey.
One of the rewards at the Junior Livestock Auction is just having fun. The kids enjoy “hanging out, riding bikes, helping with each others’ animals,” said Symon. And although they “compete their hearts out, as soon as they are out of the show ring, they’re buddies again.”
And, after the Master Showmanship/Selection of Champions on Friday, they’ll get to enjoy the 4-H-hosted, deejayed dance. The public is also welcome to enjoy the refreshments and fun at the Fairgrounds’ Home Economics Building.
Everyone is invited to The Buyer’s Thank You Dinner and Awards Presentation on Saturday, to enjoy a “delicious tri-tip dinner,” watch a slide show of the week’s events and, most importantly, watch the kids receive their awards, said Bragdon. Cost is $7 per person. People will also be able to make add-on donations at this time, if they want to support specific competitors without having to bid on their animals. Look for the Eastern Sierra Community Bank volunteers, said Bragdon.
“A lot of people have really stepped up and helped finance the awards the kids receive,” said Bragdon, explaining that the belt buckles, lunch coolers, sweatshirts and ribbons alone cost $10,000, so donations and sponsorship are key to the Junior Livestock Auction’s success.
Bradgdon expressed the Fairgrounds’ gratitude to every one of the 112 awards sponsors that make the event possible.