Youngsters put 113 animals up for sale at livestock show

Freedom New Mexico: Kevin Wilson Dylan Valentine of Melrose 4-H shows his reserve champion steer Friday night at the Curry County Fair Junior Livestock Sale. Valentine’s steer sold for $3,700.

Kevin Wilson

Somewhere at the Curry County Fair, a food court customer might have noted some sticker shock when they paid $8 for that once-a-year turkey leg.

But as far as invoices go, the food court has nothing on the act of charity and support for youth agriculture that goes on a five-minute walk west to the Curry County Events Center.

That’s where 113 animals, previously seen earlier that week in the Curry County Fair, were sold for an estimated $300,000 at the annual Junior Livestock Sale.

The total haul is up in both revenue and animals, with 2010’s show netting $286,764.30 between 107 animals.

After a barbecue dinner, the auction got going when seven grand champions and one reserve champion, with auctioneer Chris Thomas trying to make a deal.

“I’ve got 41, 2, 2, hundred,” Thomas said, later closing, “I just sold that steer for $5,000.”

Buyers have two options once the deal is made. They can pay the sticker price and keep the animal — something dairy farmers sometimes do. But most give the animal back and pay the difference between the sale price and the market value, which is predetermined before the show and posted on the auction program.

The profit goes to the youth that raised it, which they can save, spend or roll into expenses for the animals they plan to raise for next year’s fair.

The buyers usually get some kind of gift basket, made by the child, as a gesture of thanks. But even with the gift factored in, there’s a steep upcharge for a junior livestock auction animal.

Buyers consider the purchases an act of charity, but some note it’s a full-circle transaction.

Mitch Jones, a salesman at One Stop Feed, said many agriculture families continued to frequent the Hull Street shop, even when the closure of the Hull Street Overpass made the trip more difficult. Many of those families have livestock in the sale, so the $3,200 steer One Stop bought from Tristan Lockmiller is somewhat a customer appreciation day.

“It’s just to help the kids out,” Jones said. “The families have always supported us.”

Meanwhile, the youth learn about the hard work of raising an animal, and the reality that the animal sooner or later is a simple business transaction.

“It gets easier, but they are still hard to let go,” said Morgan Pinnell, a graduate of Texico High who sold Margo, her grand champion lamb, for $4,000. “It really depends on how the animal acts.”s