The last day of MontanaFair was also market day for the nearly 200 4-H and FFA members who put their market animals on the auction block.
The Junior Livestock Sale went like clockwork in the Expo Center, amid the cacophony of bleating and mooing animals and the amplified voice of auctioneer Joe Cook seeking bids from the hundreds of people on hand for the sale.
A total of 194 cattle and pigs, sheep and goats, a couple of rabbits and two turkeys all were guided into the enclosed pen for potential buyers sitting in bleachers to view. After each winning animal was sold, a photographer took a picture of the seller, the buyer and the animal.
Justin Baeten, 18, of Billings entered the pen first with Jason, his grand champion turkey. When the bidding was done, Baeten ended up both with the turkey, which the buyer gave back to him, and $550.
Baeten’s family raises turkeys, chickens and llamas, he said. Turkeys aren’t too difficult to care for, he added.
“It takes food, water and shelter,” he said. “And you’ve got to take care of them.”
Baeten must be doing something right. This was his fourth year in a row of owning the turkey judged grand champion, and Baeten also won the title of grand senior showman.
Beau Bromenshenk, 16, of Billings, sold Buster, his grand champion steer weighing 1,335 for $5.50 a pound, or $7,342 altogether. Bromenshenk, who has been in 4-H “seven or eight years” comes from a family that raises cattle.
For Bromenshenk, taking care of the steer meant getting up at 6 a.m. to feed Buster and feeding him again at 6 p.m., and that’s just for starters.
“It’s a lotta, lotta work and a lot of money,” he said, adding that, after expenses, the money from the sale will go into a college fund.
Bromenshenk agreed that spending so much time with the animal, each of which has his own personality, makes it a little hard to say goodbye.
“But at the end of the day, that’s what you raise him for,” he said.
Bromenshenk said he owed a lot of his success to his family. His older sister Cortney won three championships of her own “and she showed me how to do everything,” he said.
For Ryan Lober, 15, who lives in Shepherd and planned to sell his market lamb, Camilla, a lot of the work of raising the animal comes at the start. His family breeds their own ewes, so he knows the lambs from birth.
“When they’re first born, every two hours you have to go out all through the night and make sure they’re healthy,” he said.
Then, it’s mainly a matter of feeding them and making sure they stay healthy, he said. The money he makes goes for feed, for medicine and the next year’s project.
Teyah Vermandel, 11, who lives near Worden, is tiny compared to the huge 1,135-pound market steer, Wreck-It-Ralph, she brought to market. The trick, she said, is to spend lots of time with the steer and “get him to love you a lot” so they’ll follow your lead.
She’s not quite as attached to this steer as she was to last year’s. So she didn't mind saying goodbye.
“You get lots of money off of them,” she said. “I’m going to save up for college and I’m going to buy a pig.”
4-H and FFA members ages 9 to 19 take part in the sale, said Roni Baker, 4-H Yellowstone County extension agent. It can sometimes be difficult for a young owner to say good bye to the animal he or she been raising for most of a year.
“But I really think that these kids understand the big picture,” she said. “It’s production agriculture and they’re raising animals for food. It still doesn’t mean they’re not a little sad because they do get attached.”
Raising an animal, feeding and caring for it teach members responsibility and give them great business experience, Baker said. It also teaches them discipline, having to rise early and sometimes stay up late to get their chores done.
So the sale can be a chance to show off the product of their hard work, she said.
“They work hard all year long, and it’s an opportunity for them to showcase their animals, showcase that work,” Baker said.
They money they earn from the sale helps them pay for the feed and tools they need to do their work. They often put some of it away for the future, as well, she said.
Rick Arnold, one of the buyers at Saturday’s livestock sale, is a loan officer at Yellowstone Bank, and said the bank supports both 4-H and FFA. Arnold grew up in 4-H, as did his kids.
Understanding agriculture helps him in his job as a loan officer, Arnold said, and his kids’ 4-H projects helped put them through college.
“I know it’s a lot of work, but if you put a lot of work into it, you’ll be rewarded for it,” he said.