News Column

Colorado State Fair's livestock auction bittersweet for youth

August 27, 2014

By Carol Mcgraw, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)



Aug. 27--Some might call Jammer a cash cow.

After all, the 1,200-pound steer fetched $4,250 at the Junior Livestock Sale on Tuesday at the Colorado State Fair.

But he meant much more than dollar signs to Sierra Churchill, who has spent virtually all her free time with the steer since getting him as a 6-month-old calf last October. She got up every morning at 5:30 a.m. to spend an hour with him. Then, after classes at Peyton High School and homework, she was in the barn until 11 p.m. brushing him, teaching him to walk on a lead, talking to him.

This was the day she had to tell him goodbye.

It was a bittersweet moment for many of the 279 entrants who were showing the top cattle, goats, rabbits, chickens and lambs.

The day netted $480,950, with bidding proceeds going to the youths for college or to purchase more animals for other competitions.

But in spite of all the excitement, it was an agricultural lesson learned hard -- that in the end, the farm animals are a business and not family pets. The bidders most often sell the livestock on the spot to processing companies.

But before the auction, the kids, most who are members of 4-H or Future Farmers of America, were feted at a red carpet VIP event where they met a dizzying number of the state's movers and shakers: Gov. John Hickenlooper; state Attorney General John Suthers; state Agriculture Commissioner John Salazar; Senate Minority Leader Jim Cadman of Colorado Springs; and dozens of other legislators, civic leaders, and businessmen such as Jake Jabs of American Furniture Warehouse, Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, Jim Maguire of Overhead Door and Matt Grage of Taco Bell.

Those from Colorado Springs banded together on bidding as members of the Pikes Peak Posse, which is part of the Pikes Peak Range Riders Foundation. It was founded years ago to benefit the 4-H and Future Farmers of America kids, noted local developer Scott Smith, who is the Posse foreman.

Entrants like Sierra had to vie for a spot in the auction. Their animals had to be top-notch and had to meet many requirements. Jammer had placed first in his market steer class.

Before the auction, Sierra explained she had purchased Jammer from Indiana. "I love this. It's my hobby. I've learned a lot of responsibility and how to keep good records."

She looked at Jammer, and Jammer looked back with big soulful eyes and mooed loudly.

"I'm sad. He means a lot to me," she said, fighting back tears.

Just then Michael Fisher, Pueblo County Extension director, came by with a last-minute pep talk.

"Put a smile on your face," he said. "A $1,000 smile."

He said that a special bond develops between the kids and animals.

"It's their tears that help feed the world."

After the bidding, Sierra dejectedly led Jammer back to the barn. She was $4,250 richer thanks to the Pikes Peak Posse, which had the highest bid. It's money she plans to use to study agriculture at Oklahoma State University this fall. It's her last competition.

The Pikes Peak Posse spent about $18,000 in all, including top bids on eight animals.

Emily Nelson of Colorado Springs, a member of the Pikes Peak Posse, ran to catch up with Sierra and gave her a hug. "You've been through a lot with your animal," she told her. "You did good."

Nelson watched them retreat to the barn, where Sierra broke down in the arms of her father, Travis Chamblin.

The family would drive back to Peyton and Jammer and the other animals would be trucked to a custom processing center.

Nelson was in tears. "I'm crying for Sierra, but you know I'm also crying for Clyde, who was the steer that I sold, what was it, 30 years ago? You don't ever forget."

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Contact Carol McGraw: 636-0371.

Twitter: @mcgrawatGazette

Facebook: Carol.McGraw1

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(c)2014 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

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Source: Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO)


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