Fair week ends with biggest 4-H livestock auction in years

LITTLE BUDDIES: Jadyn Herzog, of Paris, walks her pig around the sale ring. Herzog participated in the Little Buddy program,  in which children ages 6 through 8 are paired with an older, more experienced 4-H member for to learn about showing and caring for animals. (Pioneer photo/Emily Grove-Davis)

LITTLE BUDDIES: Jadyn Herzog, of Paris, walks her pig around the sale ring. Herzog participated in the Little Buddy program, in which children ages 6 through 8 are paired with an older, more experienced 4-H member for to learn about showing and caring for animals. (Pioneer photo/Emily Grove-Davis)

BIG RAPIDS — The 4-H livestock auction at the Mecosta County Agricultural Free Fair on Saturday was not only the grand finale to the week, but the culmination of months of hard work.

With smiles on their faces and dressed to impress, 4-H’ers sold 189 market projects at the auction, including steers, chickens, rabbits, pigs and more.

For Telyse Belka, 17, of Morley, selling her market swine is the chance to proudly stand behind and sell a quality product.

“You work so hard for months raising these animals and this is your opportunity to show off what you’ve done,” Belka said. “At the end of it, you get a profit just like if you had any other type of business. It’s a great feeling.”

With more than 250 registered buyers, fair manager John Currie said the sale went exceptionally well.

The parking lot was full and there were more businesses in attendance than in years past, Currie said.

“This is definitely our biggest sale yet,” he said. “I see a lot of familiar buyers, but also plenty of new ones, which is great.”

One of those familiar faces was John Switzer, owner of J. Switzer & Sons Equipment Inc.

Switzer, of Paris, has been coming to the fair’s auction and purchasing animals since 1991.

SALE TIME: Remington Fuller, of Big Rapids, leads his 1204-pound market steer through the sale ring at Saturday's 4-H livestock auction at the Mecosta County Agricultural Free Fair. This year's fair featured 16 market beef steer projects. (Pioneer photo/Emily Grove-Davis)

SALE TIME: Remington Fuller, of Big Rapids, leads his 1204-pound market steer through the sale ring at Saturday’s 4-H livestock auction at the Mecosta County Agricultural Free Fair. This year’s fair featured 16 market beef steer projects. (Pioneer photo/Emily Grove-Davis)

As a former 4-H’er himself, Switzer knows the value in supporting the endeavors of the local youth.

“When I was growing up in Paris, I was coming to this fair with my siblings and showing our animals,” Switzer said. “I’ve always felt it was important to support the fair and these kids who put so much time and effort into this.”

On average, he buys at least 10 projects each year, mainly beef steers and some pigs. Switzer is not only well known, but also well liked for his dedication to supporting 4-H.

In a struggling market when beef prices started to dip a few years ago, Switzer decided he would not let any steer go for less than $1 per pound, a fact mentioned by auctioneers, 4-H’ers and their parents.

“I saw that and I decided that was the least they should bring, so I said to myself I’d not let any go below that,” he said. “Since then, I know the sale prices have improved tremendously.”

This year, steer prices were back up, with some selling as high as $4 per pound.

Jordan Carrick, 18, of Blanchard, sold his reserve champion beef steer at Saturday’s auction.

After spending hours walking, feeding and keeping his steer clean, Carrick said the support and recognition from local businesses means a lot.

“It’s awesome to see all these people here,” he said. “It makes you feel good about everything you’ve done and all you’ve put into it.”

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Posted by Emily Grove

Emily is the Pioneer and Herald Review crime and court reporter, covering crime in both Mecosta and Osceola counties. She can be reached by e-mail at emily@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8362.

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