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4-H auction brings record prices for meat

Chrissy Shuart with the Whidbey Island Hogs 4-H club pets her pig Y before the 4-H auction Saturday. - Brian Kelly
Chrissy Shuart with the Whidbey Island Hogs 4-H club pets her pig Y before the 4-H auction Saturday.
— image credit: Brian Kelly

LANGLEY — Pigs are very intelligent animals. And it seemed as if they knew that their ham was in jeopardy when their handlers showed them at Saturday’s 4-H Livestock Auction at the Island County Fair.

While cattle, goats and lambs trotted fairly calm behind their owners through the arena, the hogs showed some personality and gave their caretakers a run for their money.

“It’s a rewarding experience,” said Karissa Lawson, a veteran Whidbey Island Hog club member.

“They are so smart. It’s lots of fun, because they interact so well with humans,” she added.

The 18-year-old sold two of her hogs, Cotton and Candy, a couple of plump 6-month-old hogs.

The swine, weighing in at 235 and 225 pounds respectively, sold at about $2.15 per pound.

Lawson will use the money to pay some project-related bills and plans to put the rest into her college fund. She wants to study music or education.

However, once the winning bidder has been called at the auction, the tough part starts for the 4-H’ers. It’s time to say goodbye.

“We spend so much time with our animals. We train them quite a bit before the fair. It’s hard,” she said. “I detach myself. I used to get pretty upset - every year - when I was younger.”

But that’s a lesson that she learned the hard way. Lawson raised her first market animal when she was 7.

“I cried a lot. Actually I tried anyway I could - I knew where they were going - to find a home for them where they wouldn’t be slaughtered,” she recalled. “The bidder even offered to buy it and let me keep it, but that wasn’t right either.”

Now she passes her hard-learned wisdom on to the younger 4-H’ers.

“I tell them to look forward to next year and look forward to working with another great animal,” Lawson said.

“I teach them to be an aggressive competitor, not mean, but on the ball,” she added.

Lawson should know. She has won countless prizes over the years and this year her hogs won a grand-champion title in the market animal category. She also won a grand-champion title for her showing skills.

4-H’ers raise their livestock from the time the animals are babies until it’s time for the auction, feeding and grooming them until they are show ready. They plan the presentation of the animals, compete in shows and help market their animals.

After hogs, cattle, lambs and goats are sold and slaughtered, the kids oversee the meat inspection process, as well.

Overall, this year’s auction was a great success, said Jay Kidder, chair of the Livestock Sale Committee.

Thirteen swine, nine sheep, two goats and five beef were sold, bringing in more than $20,000 for the 4-H’ers.

“I don’t think anybody lost money even though feed prices are up,” Kidder said. “The kids got well over what they would get commercially,” he added.

Some animals got record sales prices.

Kidder said his daughter Maria’s grand-champion steer was a hot auction item.

“We had a bidding war for hers,” he said. The animal was sold at more than $3 a pound.

“It was another real good year of high quality animals,” he added.

Kidder said one of the main selling points is that the animals are raised without hormonal treatments, are all natural and fed with healthy feed.

“They continue to be some of the best animals around,” he said.

More than 50 bidders signed up for the 4-H auction.

People who want to get their name on next year’s bidder list and receive marketing information about next year’s market animals should contact Kidder at 360-678-1807.

Kidder said he has great respect for the professionalism of the 27 kids who had animals in the auction this year.

Sending a beloved animal off to the slaughterhouse is tough for grown-ups and kids alike.

“It’s a hard lesson. We all get a little wet around the eyes when we send them off on their journey,” Kidder said.

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