For novice and veteran 4-H and Future Farmers of America members, the last day of MontanaFair means it’s time to sell the animals they’ve been raising for months.
It’s not always easy to do that, but young or older, the club members know that it’s part of agriculture. Saturday was no different, as 184 4-H and FFA members put their animals on the auction block during the annual MontanaFair Junior Livestock Sale in the Expo Center.
Saturday was also the day at the fair when military veterans were honored. That included a flag-raising ceremony in front of the Rimrock Auto Arena, free admission to the fair for vets thanks to the Breakfast Exchange Club and a drawing for a 39-inch TV that was open only to members of the military.
It also included a talk by WWII veteran Ben Steele, an artist and a former POW who was forced to undertake the Bataan Death March, and another talk by a veteran of the Gulf War. Members of the Exchange Club also handed out small American flags, and different branches of the military manned information booths.
On the block
The Expo Center was filled with the sounds and smells of animals tied up or waiting in their pens to be sold. Joe Goggins’ voice echoed in the cavernous building as he auctioned off the animals in quick succession.
The list contained cattle, sheep, hogs and goats, but it also included two black rabbits — one a grand champion — that owner Christopher Lanaghan was selling for one price and 4-Hers Justin Baeten and Ashley Dunn offering the champion and grand reserve champion turkeys.
As Kylie Lemburg waited to sell her Hampshire-cross pig named Stella Roo, the 11-year-old Shepherd girl stood inside the pig’s pen and texted on her cellphone. This was Kylie’s second year raising a pig as a 4-H project.
She got the piglet in March and has been working with it ever since.
“I exercise her every morning, I clean out her pen and we mix her feed and make sure she has enough water to last her until night,” Kylie said. “And we brush her off so she’s all clean and make sure she’s cooled off, so we spray her.”
That’s a morning and evening job, Kylie said, but she doesn’t mind.
“It’s a big responsibility, but it’s really fun to practice every morning, and when you get to go to the new shows, you have to put all the effort into it,” Kylie said.
She admitted it isn’t easy to say goodbye to Stella Roo.
“But I just had to keep the time with her to keep her happy and healthy,” she said.
The money she made on Saturday will go to pay off the expenses of raising the pig, Kylie said, and go into savings.
Roni Baker, youth extension agent for Yellowstone County 4-H said the livestock sale is an opportunity for kids to make back the money they have invested in their projects.
“It’s just a chance to showcase what they’ve done and get a premium for what they’ve done,” she said.
Business owners, family members and others come to the auction and offer hundreds of dollars each for the animals.
“The sale usually goes really, really well,” Baker said. “Our local businesses really support these kids, so they usually do well.”
Melody Harris, 4-H program assistant in Yellowstone County, said that while the sale is the business side to raising the animals, it can sometimes be difficult to say goodbye.
“There will be lots of tears today,” she said. “The kids have become really attached to their animals, almost on a one-to-one level, and now you’ve got to say goodbye.”
But the youths learn at an early age, she said, that the animals are raised for market, “and that’s how we feed people.”
Bobby Dorvall, 17, lives on a ranch in Fromberg and raises club lambs for sale in partnership with her mother, sister and brother-in-law. She also owns 10 head of short horns and 165 head of sheep.
On Saturday, she sold Mac, the grand champion market lamb, for more than $2,000.
“This is my ninth year in 4-H and I’ve showed lambs for nine years and raised every one I’ve shown except for one, and that was a ewe lamb,” Bobby said after her part of the auction was done.
The ewes start lambing in January, and Bobby has seen every lamb she’s raised from the time it was born. Starting at about the end of April she spends a couple of hours each day getting the lamb ready for the fair.
Once Bobby is at the show, the work schedule stretches to eight to 10 hours a day. She plans to make her living in some facet of agriculture, and she also looks forward to helping the next generation of 4-Hers succeed with their animal projects as she has.
But Bobby admitted on Saturday that it will be hard to say goodbye to Mac.
“When he was a baby, he was the worst little thing,” she said, smiling. “You couldn’t get him to set up or anything. He’d back up or fall down and pretty soon he’d get so he’d hide from you out in the corral.”
But over time, the two bonded. Anymore, Mac runs up to Bobby in the pen, and he follows her around.
“I’ve done this for so long, I get used to it,” she said, talking about selling her 4-H projects. “But for some reason, he’s really tugging on me today.”