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Hard work pays off at Junior Livestock Auction

4-H, FFA youth have been raising animals for months
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal features editor
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These kids aren’t afraid to get dirty.

Ophir 4-H members spend part of every day taking care of their animals – getting them up to proper weight, keeping them healthy and teaching them showmanship – in the hopes of getting a good price for them at the Junior Livestock Auction at the Gold Country Fair.

4-H and Future Farmers of America youth from this area have been preparing for months for the auction, which takes place Saturday at the fair.

“I just like helping out during the fair, and the young kids who are starting out and showing cattle, and helping them raise their own animals throughout the year,” said Junior Livestock Committee President Ashley Countryman. “It’s just a good organization to be involved in, helping the youth agricultural kids of this area.”

Countryman said nearly 250 4-H and FFA youth have been raising cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits, turkeys and ducks for the auction. The money the kids get for their animals is theirs to keep – many use it to fund their project for next year, or to save for college.

“We usually raise anything from $125,000 to $150,000,” Countryman said. “We are very lucky that the community here in Auburn supports the kids very well. We’re very thankful that we have good buyers come and support us.”

Kathryn Holt, 13, Auburn, is raising a pig for the first time. She has raised lambs before, but said she switched to swine in order to get more experience – and make more money at the auction.

There’s a lot more to raising a hog than feeding and cleaning it, she said.

“You have to make them big enough so they can pass weight, and you have to practice showmanship by walking them,” Kathryn said.

“You have to take care of them, get them to earn your trust, and they can be very loving,” she added. “If you scratch their stomach, they’ll roll over on their back.”

Amanda Konrad, of Auburn, chose turkeys over pigs this year because, simply, they don’t roll in the mud and they smell better. But there’s still lots of work involved, and showmanship, as well, to show buyers the high quality meat they’re buying. With turkeys, that means holding the birds up by their feet so the buyer can see their chest.

“If you work with them enough,” Amanda said, “they’ll get so trusting of you they won’t even flap their wings. They’ll just flip right over.”

And beyond the fun and the money, raising an animal teaches important life skills. Jennifer Vargas, co-swine leader for Ophir 4-H with her husband, Rich, said the most important thing the kids learn is responsibility.

“They have to be responsible for another life, and that’s a huge undertaking,” she said. “They’ve got to feed the pigs, take care of any medical needs that arise.”

The Vargases’ sons, Justin and Jake, are also raising pigs. Justin, 12, lightheartedly named his 4-month-old pig BLT. He said it’s a good idea for kids to get involved in activities like 4-H and FFA.

“It’s important, because doing the fairs and stuff, they have a chance to get out there and meet new people and do new things that they might not be so comfortable with,” Justin said. “And by doing those things, when they grow up they might have learned skills that they’re going to need.”

Vargas and Countryman emphasized that the auction is successful thanks to the community, and urged people to come out and support the kids. In addition, their tax-deductible purchase will get them a great animal.

“They’re getting very high quality, because these kids have spent a lot of money raising these animals,” Countryman said. “No expense has been left to raise their animals the best they can, because obviously they want to do the best they can, and to do that they have to raise a good animal.”

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Junior Livestock Auction

When: 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 8 (buyers’ brunch at 8:30 a.m.; Buyers’ Thank You Dinner after sale)

Where: Gold Country Fairgrounds, Auburn

Info: (530) 823-4533; (530) 320-0145