Weld County Fair livestock auction brings tears and top dollars for 4-H’ers
What happens after the auction?
Buyers pay the kids directly, and then they have a few options. They can have the animal processed and get the meat, they can give the animal to the meat processing plant, or they can sell it to the “buy-back” at market price.
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The 4-H’er and sale price for the grand champions in each category from Monday night’s auction:
Steer: Caitlyn Ochsner, $14,000
Goat: Tanner Fetzer, $7,500
Swine: Grant Vickland, $5,700
Sheep: Kayla Frink, $5,500
Turkey: Hans Vickland, $1,500
Chickens (pen): Carson Zacharias, $2,500
Rabbits (pen): Aiden Datteri, $1,250
They know why they bought and raised the animals, but it doesn’t make it any easier to watch them go.
“I usually cry at lot,” said Jacey Bernhardt, 11.
Bernhardt was cleaning her bulky first-prize goat Milky Way before his showing Monday night at the Junior Livestock Sale at the Island Grove Park’s Events Center. She took Huggies baby wipes to his legs and hind as he tried to buck away. Speckles, the more cuddly goat, stood behind, chewing on his harness; he eats everything.
The sad part hadn’t come yet.
“He’s still right here,” she said, glancing at Milky Way.
Bernhardt and hundreds of other kids marched their animals out onto a decorated pastoral stage as auctioneers coaxed the crowd into paying more and more. This is what showers call a “terminal sale.” Goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, swine and steer all have to go to slaughter.
Many of these animals will be sold for a few hundred dollars, but some will go for thousands — especially the beef category.
Showing a winning steer is essentially the big leagues. They can bring in enough to buy a car.
This season’s No. 1 steer, or grand champion, was Caitlyn Ochsner’s Peanut. She got $14,000 for the picturesque black and white animal.
Last year’s champion brought in more than $18,000.
A handful of factors brought sales down on all livestock, said event organizer Carrie Huenink. One had the most drastic effect.
“The oil and gas industry is feeling some pain,” she said.
Because of its reduced buying power, numbers were down across the board.
Even with the reduced price, Peanut’s sale brought in enough to pay more than a year’s tuition. Many 4-H’ers use their earnings to pay for school.
Jenna Fink, who just graduated high school, is using her sheep-showing earnings to pay for an animal science and agribusiness degree from Colorado State University.
Fink started showing when she was 8 years old, and she said it’s still tough to send the animals off.
“Obviously you get attached, and it’s hard to say goodbye,” she said.
She comes from a big 4-H family. Her parents showed animals, and now she and her two sisters do.
As the girls grew up, perspective became easier.
“When we were 8, we didn’t understand where they were going or why they were going,” she said. “You learn to accept it.”
That acceptance was easier to swallow because her parents would comfort her through the loss and give her guidance.
“I couldn’t have done it without them,” she said.
Bernhardt comes from a showing family, too. Her dad, Mark, works with her and her older sister. He looked on as Jacey worked with Milky Way.
“I have two daughters who work hard,” he said.
He said the girls understand the animals’ purpose, and Jacey agreed.
“I still don’t want them to get sold,” she said.
But she went out and showed him with a smile. She put her hands under his chin to make sure he faced the crowd.
It paid off. He sold for $1,500. ❖
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Come join the fun! Larimer County 4-H is home to one of the largest 4-H programs in Colorado.