By Jean Schurman
The 4H and FFA Market Livestock Sale at the Ravalli County Fair is one of the most anticipated events of the year, especially by the members. It’s kind of a love/hate event. The members want to sell their animals and do well in their projects, but over the year their animals have become more than just a project. Their animals have become their friends. These kids have spent hours upon hours working, feeding, showing and fitting their animals. They know exactly how much feed the animal has eaten, and how much that feed cost. They hope for a good sale but by the time Saturday morning comes around, they understand that it’s no longer in their hands; it’s in the hands of the buyers.
The sale on Saturday featured 153 animals – 10 meat goats, 75 hogs, 34 lambs, four dairy heifers and 30 beef steers. Before the auction begins, the support price is set. This is the going rate (by pound for everything but the dairy heifers) that the animals would sell for in a regular market. This year, prices are up, quite a bit in some cases. For many members, the cost to buy their animal was also higher, and the cost of feed is quite a bit higher as well. However, the support price doesn’t really take any of that into account; it is based on what the animal will bring on the open market.
Each year, the order of the sale is rotated. This year the order was market goats, beef, dairy, sheep and hogs. Generally, the later the animals sell, the lower the prices. But, this auction is about kids. That was very evident this year. From the first market goat to the last hog sold, the prices were exceptional.
Topping the sale was Brody Severson of Stevensville who sold his grand champion market steer for a whopping $8,840 dollars. The Maine Anjou/Hereford/Angus cross steer weighed in at 1,360 pounds and sold for $6.50 a pound. Severson said the steer came from his family’s ranch, Severson’s Flying E Ranch. He chose the animal based on the animal’s conformation and how the animal looked.
“I knew what this judge liked and looked for a well balanced animal,” said the 16-year-old junior.
He picked out the steer in October, the beginning of the 4H year, and then got serious about his ration in January. Severson said they have a scale at their place and were able to adjust the ration as needed to keep the steer on track for gaining and finishing off at the right time, just before the fair.
But there was more to his plan than feeding the steer. Severson also had a marketing plan for the auction. He wrote letters to potential buyers, telling them about his project and what was going on with the steer. The Barkus Ranch out of Corvallis purchased the steer.
“I sent them a letter,” said Severson. “They are always great supporters of the sale.”
In fact, the Barkus Ranch purchased a few animals on Saturday and helped to keep the prices high. Another great supporter this year was Ted Odle, the owner of Montana Livestock Auction out of Butte. He bought a number of animals but he bid on many more, helping to drive those prices up as well.
Larry and Peggy Trexler have been involved in the market sale for many, many years. Both agree this was one of the best sales ever. Peggy said she felt the marketing done by the members is a big help.
“If they come and talk to me about their animal, I’m going to bid on it,” said Peggy.
The high prices continued through every category. Sydney Wolsky of Corvallis had the grand champion sheep. It sold for $15 a pound and weighed 147 pounds. Parker Bryant had the grand champion hog. It weighed 287 pounds and sold for $7.50/pound. Katie Banister sold her 100-pound market goat for $4.50/pound. The bred dairy heifers averaged just over $2,900.
Severson said he would be using his money for flight lessons; he’ll solo once he turns 17. And he’ll add to his college fund. He’s planning on becoming an aircraft mechanic. And, he’s keeping his eyes on this year’s calf crop to see if there’s another grand champion out in the field.