4-H and FFA members show, sell livestock at county expo
Although she laughs about being able to ask her mother "Who are we having for dinner tonight?" Katherine Alder already knows she'll shed some tears when it comes time to say goodbye to Scooter, her 1,068-pound pet steer, when he is auctioned off next Saturday.
Alder, Scooter, and Shirley A. Goodpig will attend the Yavapai County 4-H/FFA Expo and Auction April 22-26 at the Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo Grounds. Alder will show her pig, Shirley, on Friday, but Shirley isn't headed for the auction ring like Scooter.
"I got Scooter from a cattle company in Paulden," Alder said. "I actually saw him at last year's Expo when he was just born. I fell in love with him when he was just 2 weeks old. I said, 'I want that one.'"
Scooter weighed about 425 pounds when she began caring for him. This week he topped the scales at 1,068 pounds.
Alder, in her final year of 4-H with the Lonesome Valley Wranglers, attends Bradshaw Mountain High School. She and Kelsie Kenson, Prescott High School student with the Shamrock Husslers, made a presentation at the Dewey-Humboldt Community Organization's March meeting. They told the audience that students aged 5-19 participate in 4-H and FFA in a variety of project areas. Yavapai County has 475 active members, many of whom will attend the Expo with animals they have raised and cared for since November.
The Lonesome Valley Wranglers includes members from Cordes, Mayer, Dewey-Humboldt and on into Prescott Valley, said Roni Kennedy, this year's Steer Leader.
She described the Round Robin event scheduled for Friday afternoon as an opportunity for the students to show their knowledge about their animals. Even though animals of all categories are in the ring with the students, it is the students that the judges score.
"It's based on how the child shows the animal. It's important to know where your judges are, and to make your animal think they are the best ones out there. The animal and child must be very clean. The kids keep their eyes on the judge at all times, and the judge asks questions about the animal, so they must know their animal well. It's about how you present yourself, your animal, and your knowledge about that animal," Kennedy said.
It's hard giving up a steer she calls her 1,000-pound puppy dog, Alder acknowledged.
"It is very difficult. I'm kind of used to it because I've been doing it for a long time. This is my ninth year raising and selling a pig. I haven't cried over a pig since my second year when I was 10," she said.
But last year, the first time she raised a steer, she said she cried a lot.
"You get attached to them. You have to remind yourself - this is what I keep telling myself - I gave them a better home. They would have spent their life in a feedlot somewhere, with no love, no care. You're raising them for what they're there for - to eat," Alder said.
The 4-H members can register only one animal in the Expo for auction and Alder also wanted to raise a pig. So she arranged with another family to raise and show Shirley and the family would pay for food and costs in exchange for the meat.
Shirley Goodpig started out weighing 45 pounds and Alder estimates she now weighs 220 pounds. The Expo brochure states that a 230-pound swine will yield about 150 pounds of hams, chops, shoulder cuts, sausage, ribs and other cuts.
Alder said she is hoping Scooter brings $3 per pound in Saturday's auction, which may earn her between $1,000-$2,000 in profit. She spends about $1,000 on grain alone, with other costs like hay, show equipment, tack, brushes and combs, shampoo and entry fees that cut into her earnings.
So why does she work so hard at this for so many years?
"I'm not worried about making a profit, that's not why I do it. I really like the experience of working with animals and being around other people who are interested in teaching others about animals. I like seeing how much little kids can learn," Alder said.
Teaching people about livestock and agriculture is important, she added.
"It's a diminishing thing in our society, and I want to keep the public informed."
The University of Arizona has accepted Alder as a student next year where she plans to study physiology and enter the College of Medicine. She is applying for scholarships to add to the savings she started when she sold her first pig at age 9.