The Madison County Fair has been going on since Wednesday of this week. Madison is a very small, rural community north of C'ville and it's where my employer is based. Last year, I convinced Understanding House Mate - who works for the same company I do - that the company should support the fair in a more visible way than just taking out an ad in the fair program. We should buy an animal at the 4H/FFA livestock auction!
Many moons ago, I was involved in 4H and FFA. I raised and showed market lambs and, one year, a market hog. We didn't live on a farm but we were lucky enough to be in a rural area and we had friends with small, hobby farms where I could keep my animals. To this day, I think it is one of the best experiences of my life. 4H and FFA are wonderful learning grounds for kids. If you choose to do a market animal project, you take responsibility for all the aspects of that project - both financial and physical. On a very basic level, you learn about budgeting, profit and loss and keeping tracking of your money. You also learn a tremendous amount about the care and feeding of animals. As a bonus, you make great friends and learn about team work and good sportsmanship too.
Last night was the livestock auction at the Madison County Fair. Understanding House Mate and I went with a budget of $1,000, two spreadsheets of figures to help us determine what we could afford and a determination to buy something! Well, buy something we did! After sitting through the auction of baskets put together by various 4H clubs for fundraising and the beef cattle, the auction of market lambs began. The first animal to sell is always the Grand Champion of that species for the fair. This year's Grand Champion Market Lamb was a 116 pound, Suffolk-cross wether (castrated male sheep). The bidding started at $2.00 a pound, Understanding House Mate joined the fray when the price hit $3.00 a pound and when the dust settled, she had bought the Grand Champion Market Lamb for $8.50 a pound! This is the first year our company has participated in the livestock auction and we came away with a very nice buy. The little girl who raised and exhibited the lamb is 9 years old and this was her very first 4H project! She should net somewhere around $500, depending on what expenses are like these days.
Going to the county fair can be a real treat. For my dog friends, I would urge you to go and watch the judging of the market animals. Livestock judges are required to give a verbal critique of the class and their reasons for the placements - something I've often wished the dog show world would do. The kids, as young as 9 years old, do a wonderful job of presenting their animals to best advantage through both the livestock and the showmanship classes. Did you know if you win showmanship for your species (lamb, hog, dairy, beef, etc.) you go on to a grand champion class where you are expected to take turns showing an animal of every species? How many of us could show a Cardi and then turn around and show a Yorkie or a Wolfhound with the same level of expertise? These kids are amazing! The livestock auction is fun to watch too. There's always the first time exhibitor who gets teary-eyed selling their project animal and the senior who has been showing for 9 or 10 years who is showing for the last time.
It's county and state fair season - make time to support your local 4H and FFA clubs.
4 hours ago