Youngsters at the Routt County junior livestock sale on Saturday evening learned a quick lesson in tough love.
After months of grooming and bathing and combing their animals, 4-H and FFA members must say goodbye to their furry friends.
The task of raising livestock for market ends culminates at the annual sale. Here kids are rewarded for a job well done.
Sometimes the reward can be hard to swallow.
Since last October, 16-year-old Janey Montieth has spent as many as eight hours a day working with her steer Cooper.
The hard work was worth it when Cooper was named grand champion, she said.
But victory can be bittersweet. Letting go of something so cared for can put a damper on such a coveted win.
“He’s my best friend,” she said. “You get so attached to your animal that you try not to think about what happens to him after he’s sold. There will be tears, I’m sure.”
Montieth beat out Jamie Booco, whose steers have captured the grand champion title for the past nine years.
This was Booco’s last junior livestock competition. With new priorities like college in the near future, it was difficult to devote the necessary time to her steer.
“Winning requires a lot of commitment, and I just didn’t have as much time as I would have liked,” Booco said. “But saying goodbye is still something that I would rather not do.”
The sale allows participants to stash their winnings in savings or use the money to buy another animal to raise for next year’s livestock auction.
Many people and businesses buy livestock, only to give the animals and their sale price to Routt County 4-H clubs. Those clubs then sell the animals to market for a set price and keep the profits.
An animal that is bought for $1,000 at the sale and then donated may be sold to market for $400. The youngsters then get to keep the remaining $600.
Marie Gallagher of Chicago bought Cooper for $4,500 to benefit the 4-H club. The meat will be donated to the Yampa Valley Medical Center.
C.J. Marlow would like to see more youth involved in 4-H and FFA. The Routt County extension agent assisted the participants in showing off their animals to the bidders.
“This is more than a sale,” Marlow said. “This is a cumulation of all that these kids have worked for since last year’s sale. Their earnings are the result of sacrifice and responsiblity to care for their animals.”
Children as young as four and as old as 18 participate in 4-H programs that teach them the value of sticking with a commitment so they can eventually enjoy the fruits of their labor, Marlow added.
Like many area residents, Roberta Gill attended the auction to bid on an animal. The support of area businesses helps 4-H and FFA expand childrens’ opportunities to excell, she said.
Routt County 4-H clubs will be using their proceeds from the auction to build a new facility to house and present livestock.
“Their generosity is these kids’ reward,” she said.
Sean Rolando will be putting away his earnings for a new car. He’s only 12.
While Rolando is sad to see his pig Spitfire go, he looks forward to taking care of more prize-winning pigs in the future.
Tyler Knott takes a more practical approach. His sheep Ryan was named the Grand Champion market sheep. But when it comes to saying goodbye, Knott is all business.
“You know when you commit to taking care of these animals that eventually you will have to give them up,” Knott said. “It’s all part of the process. You love and then you let go.”
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