Livestock is a serious hobby for these youths
PRESCOTT VALLEY Joseph Parker of Coolidge is only 13-years-old, and he has already traveled to more states that many Americans have visited in a lifetime: 33.
However, Joseph regards travel as only one of the perks of being active in 4-H clubs.
"It teaches you responsibility," said Joseph, a member of the Desert Dust Devils 4-H Club.
"You learn a lot about what it takes to raise an animal that will have good meat," Joseph said.
Joseph, who has raised animals all his life, entered a number of animals in the 92nd annual Yavapai County Fair, which concludes today. He entered breeding and market sheep, breeding heifers, hogs, goats and a dairy cow.
Besides entering animals, Joseph and other youths judged them as well. Joseph, Allen Welch of the FFA at Mingus Union High School in Cottonwood, and the other teens carried around scorecards from the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension as they walked around stalls and pens.
"You've just got to know what you are judging," said Allen, a 16-year-old junior. He garnered the grand champion reserve prizes for his bull and steer entries and placed second for showmanship for beef cattle.
"In the steers, you are looking for frame sizes," he said, adding the judges determine whether the steers are "too wasting" or skinny.
Youths ages 9 to 19 judged swine, breeding and market (for sale) sheep, and breeding and market cattle, said Heather Scott, junior large livestock superintendent.
Scott said the livestock exhibits included more than 90 sheep, about 20 head of cattle, 10 pigs, three pygmy goats and one Angora goat.
The fair scheduled an auction at 5 p.m. Saturday for "feeder" lambs, which Scott explained applied to the exhibitors who sold to 4-H and FFA members who in turn enter the sheep in spring-time shows.
However, the county fair does not offer a "market" auction in which buyers purchase them for eventual slaughter, according to Scott.
Asked why, Scott said both the Yavapai County 4-H and FFA Expo and the Verde Valley Fair take place during the spring.
"It would be too much pressure on the buyers" to justify a market auction at the fair, she said.
A market auction could have tripled the number of animal entries at the fair, said Vern Johnson, FFA adviser for the Camp Verde Unified School District which has about 140 youths in FFA.
While too young to belong to FFA, 11-year-old Brette Anderson of Prescott has her career set out to become a veterinarian.
Brette, a fifth-grader at Abia Judd Elementary School and member of the Shamrock Hustlers 4-H Club, sold a pig for $4.50 a pound.
"I might do a steer next year," she said.
Kaylene Martinez, 5, of Prescott entered and sold much smaller animals rabbits and won three best of breed awards, her mother, Stephanie Schaan, said.
"We won't butcher them or do anything like that," Schaan said. "We just hope they go to good homes."