EAGLE — Youngsters of all ages weighed in their animals at the Eagle County Fairgrounds for the 4-H livestock auction on Wednesday.
The barn bustled with clucking, mooing and bleating as the 4-H families ushered their animals to and from the weigh station. Every now and then a nervous steer crashed into the gates, raising dust and commotion.
“A lot of these animals are born and raised in Eagle County, which makes this fair unique,” said Junior Livestock and Eagle County Fair Board President Loyd Gerard. “In an area where there is not a lot of agriculture, we like to promote Western heritage.”
Gerard is a third-generation rancher in Eagle County. He’s been involved with the Junior Livestock program 12 years and on the fair board for five years.
“I really believe in this program,” he said. “These kids work hard on their livestock projects, especially the steer projects, which start in November and are a big commitment. Chickens and goats start in March. It makes really good people out of the kids. The parents are super, too, and the program fosters a lot of family closeness.”
He said the animals will fetch anywhere from $100 to $15,000.
“We have buy-back prices if someone wants to support the kids but doesn’t want the animal,” he said. “A lot of them, like my daughter, use the money to save for college.”
Lakrisha Ellison, 9, of Gypsum, is enjoying her first year in 4-H. She used a crutch, limping around on a sprained ankle as she led her goats, Ford and Chevy, to the weigh station.
“I picked goats because I thought they would be a great project,” she said. “They’re funny, playful and I love them to death.”
She also knew what would probably happen to the animals if they cleared the weigh-in standard of 60 pounds, which they did.
“We’re going to sell them and they’re going to become meat!” she said.
Ellison also entered some rabbits into the fair that won four ribbons earlier that day – a reserve class champion and a fourth place in the market class.
“My mom gave me an option to do Girl Scouts or 4-H and I picked 4-H!” she said. “I have three step-sisters who are going to do it next year.”
Tyler Millon, 15, of McCoy, raised pigs and turkeys for the fair this year. This is his second year in 4-H and first year raising turkeys.
“I wanted to do it my whole life but I didn’t have a job to earn money to buy some animals until two years ago,” he said. “Last year I bought pigs for $1,300 and sold them for $1,600, so I used that for my projects this year.”
He said his pigs gained 200 pounds in three months since he bought them at an auction in March.
Millon said his interest in hogs started with his neighbor, who has raised several every year for a long time. He enjoys their novelty as well.
“When people see you walking a pig along the highway, they pull over and ask about it,” Millon said with a grin. “This is my first year doing turkeys and I got third and fourth place overall in the senior class, which I think is pretty good for the senior class. Domestic turkeys aren’t as smart as the pigs, though.”