On the final days of the Johnson County fair, it was time for many 4-H members to say their goodbyes.

For nearly a year, they have been raising and caring for their swine, cattle, goats and sheep. They’ve taken care to feed them every day, wash them and groom them.

To prepare for the fair, 4-H’ers trained them to ensure they would be ready to show. But at Friday’s livestock auction, the members would part with their animals for good, unleashing a wide range of emotions.

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“It’s a little tough, just how attached you get to it,” said Evan Henderson of Franklin.

“You get used to it after doing it a few years, but it can be really difficult.”

The annual livestock auction at the county fair is a bittersweet moment for most 4-H’ers. Months of hard work and care are rewarded with hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars that can go toward college savings funds, paying for that first car or buying next year’s fair animal.

But at the same time, it’s the last time they’ll see animals that had been an important part of their everyday lives.

“Some people scream and cry, but I’m fine. I just think it’s part of the job. I don’t care, because I know they taste good,” said Jackson Baker, 10, of Franklin.

The auction is a way for 4-H members to receive compensation for the work they’ve put into their animals, as well as see the business side of agriculture in action.

Last year’s event raised more than $288,000 for local kids selling steers, hogs, goats, rabbits and market lambs. The grand champion barrow raised by Austin Daming sold for $6,000, while the grand champion steer from Austin Porter went for $6,800.

Drew Titara raises cattle on his home farm in Bargersville with the hope of earning money to help with college. The 16-year-old was selling a Guernsey cow named Prince this year, the only Guernsey shown at the fair this year.

Though he’s become accustomed to Prince’s docile demeanor and easygoing way, Drew still understands the necessity of selling him in the auction.

“It’s a lot of effort repaid,” he said. “In the long run, the money really helps. It can go towards college or a new car. Since cows are the biggest, they always give the most money, and you need that for college.”

Evan has been selling animals since he joined 4-H, so he understands that, come the end of the fair, it’s time to say goodbye to his steer.

The dairy steer will hopefully bring in a few thousand dollars for his college fund. Though he’s only 16, the Franklin resident has been stowing away his profits from the auction each year.

To ensure that his steer brings in the highest price, Evan will walk the animal, make sure it’s washed and looks clean.

“You want to him to represent well when you show him,” he said.

Emily Kleinhelter has always understood that raising her swine is a business and looks at the auction as a necessary part of the agriculture industry.

“I don’t really get sad, because I know I’m going to do it again next year,” she said. “This is what happens in the business.”

The 13-year-old Franklin resident will sell her Berkshire barrow in this year’s event, her fourth time participating in the auction. The money that comes from the sale goes toward next year’s pig, creating a self-sustaining cycle to support her participation in 4-H.

The more money she makes, the better quality pig she can buy, ideally increasing her profits year to year.

“Maybe I can even buy more than one pig,” Emily said.

On Friday morning, Jackson and his friend, Seth Sanders, thoroughly washed the coat, hooves and snout of each of their swine. They wanted their animals looking fresh and as clean as possible to entice buyers.

“You want them to be show ready,” said Seth, a 10-year-old from Franklin.

He will sell his Yorkshire pig at the auction this time around, his second time taking part of the auction. Jackson will put a crossbred on the auction block.

The plan is to reinvest their profits into another 4-H entry.

“Normally, we’ll use it to get more animals,” Jackson said. “That will help us for next season.”

If you go

Today at the Fair

5 to 8 p.m.: Cooking demonstrations (Farm Bureau Building)

5 to 8 p.m.: Christine Nicole (Concert Stage)

6 p.m. to close: Weekend Madness on the Midway

6:30 to 10 p.m.: Gospel music (“A” Tent)

7 p.m.: Horseshoe pitching (West of Fair Office)

7 p.m.: Demolition Derby Pro Class Rules — Gut-N-Go — Lawnmower Derby; Admission: $10 adults, $5 kids 12 and younger

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.