Junior livestock sale brings big money, big emotions on fair's final day

·3 min read

Aug. 15—Libby Wagner's prized pig Jimmy Dean sampled his first, and last, snow cone on Sunday afternoon.

The 290-pound Reserve Grand Champion Hampshire swine was getting his final kisses and spoiled with treats by Wagner following the livestock auction. Jimmy Dean, or Deanie Beanie as Libby sometimes affectionately called him, wasn't going home after the final day of the Boulder County Fair. He was going to market to be processed into chops and bacon.

"You do get super attached to them because you're with them every single day, so it is pretty hard to say goodbye," admitted Libby while kissing Jimmy on the snout. But it wasn't the 13-year-old's first livestock auction. "It's his purpose, it's what he's bred to do."

The prized pig, and most of the other swine, cows, goats, rabbits, turkey and sheep that strutted their stuff in the sawdust on the final day of the fair were market animals, raised for their meat by young Future Farmers of America and 4-H members who knew the fates of their animals from the beginning.

Fifty-one animals were sold, with sale prices ranging from several hundred dollars to thousands. Although Jace Hinze's 1,209-pound grand champion beef cow sold for $3,500, pound for pound Violet Richmond's meat rabbit may have dominated the show with its $800 sale price.

John Herring, president of the 4-H junior market livestock sale, officiated the show alongside local auctioneer Joe Knight, and the afternoon was an emotional one for the father and farmer.

"I sold in that ring as a kid myself, 10, 11 times at least," said Herring after the show. His oldest son Jonah sold his beef cow for $2,800. "It was tough to hold back the emotions and the memories today. I'm looking at my dad watching me, watching my son."

Throughout the sale, Herring praised the exhibitors for their dedication to raising their animals and for their leadership as young farmers.

"At the end of the day we're doing something that's unpopular," said Herring. "We do this with respect to the animal and respect to the land."

Time and again local business owners and representatives raised their paddles to show their support with their wallet.

Like Herring, 4Rivers Equipment branch manager Neil Motley grew up going to the fair, and the heavy equipment and John Deere tractor dealership was the high bidder of the show.

"How can we not support this?" beamed Motley. "It sounds like a canned response, but supporting these kids is an easy thing to do and we're supporting the future of agriculture."

"As a kid I came to this fair to see the tractor pulls and the animals. It's 100% nostalgic," said Motley. "And now, I work at a tractor dealership, so all that tractor pulling made a difference all those years ago."

For the oldest of the exhibitors graduating out of the program, the day marked a transition as some head off to college and for others, like Tanner Atencio, the $3,000 his reserve grand champion beef cow sold for would be reinvested into his next livestock project and the vocational education program he plans to enter.

After showing for six years, his father Mike offered a flat "no" when asked if the sale price was representative of what his son invested in the cow with no name, just an ear tag numbered 572. As the barn builder's eyes began watering, he continued "this program is about so much more than the money."