MITCHELL — Saturday was the culmination of the livestock production year for 4-H and FFA kids as the Scotts Bluff County Fair wrapped up a week of activities with the Junior Livestock Sale.
Cattle, swine, sheep, goats, rabbits, turkeys, chickens and other poultry all went before the auctioneer throughout the day.
Kate Schmer, chair of the Scotts Bluff County Livestock Sale Committee, said 194 animals went to the sale ring, the lowest number they’ve recorded. One reason is the continuing slowdown in production agriculture throughout the Midwest.
“Still, we’ve had a great day with the stands full of bidders,” Kate said. “We have an amazing community that comes out and supports these kids every year. It’s a reflection of what our community is all about.”
She said that support comes from a large number of companies that are perennial livestock buyers. They include Platte Valley Bank, Westco, B&C Steel, Panhandle Cooperative Association, Paul Reed Construction and many more.
The livestock sale, which brings in just over $300,000 each year, allows 4-H and FFA kids to reinvest in new animals and start the process again for next year’s fair. Some will use the money to get a start on their college education. Others will start their own herds at home.
Most important is the lessons the kids learn from caring for livestock. It’s a long process that involves feeding, training, grooming, doctoring when necessary, and many other tasks, Schmer said.
“Livestock projects teach kids responsibility because animals can’t care for themselves,” Schmer said. “Some of the kids have had their calves for more than a year. The kids who raise sheep and pigs usually get them in early spring.”
Schmer’s family has their own sheep herd, so her four children are involved in the process of raising sheep from birth to market.
Because kids spend so much time with their animals over the long haul, it’s a common occurrence for them to feel a little sad saying good-bye once the livestock sale comes around.
One of them is Jessica Whitebear of Bayard, who got a newly weaned calf last fall. Now she’s bringing a full grown steer into sale ring at the fair.
“He’s a big teddy bear, but he doesn’t know how big he is, so he can push me around sometimes,” Whitebear said. “I’ve also shown him at the Morrill County Fair last week.”
Whitebear has been showing cattle for the past eight years and currently has four other animals. But she admits this one is her favorite.
“I’ll probably cry a bit when he’s gone.”
She’s not alone. Many kids can struggle with that awareness. But parents in agriculture know that the fair livestock sale is just the final stop in a long process.
Schmer said her children were the same. But along the way she taught them why they take so much time working so hard with their animals.
“We’re teaching the kids the lessons of where food comes from and it doesn’t start with restaurants and supermarkets,” she said. “Ultimately, these animals are destined to be part of the food chain.”
Along the way, the kids also learn responsibility, patience, perseverance and many other qualities that will serve them well for their entire lives.
Because of a computer malfunction, final results from the Junior Livestock Sale might not be available until Monday. The Star-Herald will post them online as soon as they come in.