As the Western Montana Fair winds down, there was still one more tradition to complete: the annual 4-H/FFA Livestock Sale.
Keith Henry flicked up his paddle again and again as Ryan Glenn led his 1,355-pound blue ribbon steer around the auction circle. At the end of the bidding Henry, owner of Rocky Mountain Rental, had won with a price of $3.50 per pound. Henry said he comes to the auction every year to help out the 4-H kids. Now, he has a lot of beef to take home.
“I’m going to divide it up and give it away to my employees,” he said.
Henry said he wasn’t finished just buying the steer. He was sticking around to pick up a hog later in the auction.
“It’s a good way to support kids and the community,” he said.
This was Glenn’s first year raising a steer; for the past eight he’s done lambs. Glenn, 19, said he got his steer, which he named Runaway, in March of last year.
“We call him that because when we first got him, he busted out of the trailer and we had to chase him through a field,” he said.
Glenn, who graduated from Big Sky High School in the spring, said he will be using his money to help pay for college at the University of Montana.
Although this will be his last year doing 4-H, like many of the other participants, raising livestock is a family affair. Glenn’s two younger brothers still have a few years each left in 4-H, and are raising a hog and a lamb this year.
Campbell Barrett, Missoula County’s 4-H extension agent, said the kids have been showing their animals for prizes and awards during the week. Now, about 300 animals are up for bidding from business owners from around the community.
Barrett said this year the livestock auction has about 40 more animals than last year, and that beef animals are up 50 percent over what was offered in 2013.
Through 4-H, the kids, who keep the money they make at auction, learn valuable life skills including responsibility and financial management, Barrett said.
As their turn came up the kids led – and sometimes had to pull – their animal through the hallway that connected the barn they were being housed in to the chute leading to the auction ring. Potential bidders sat on bleachers around the pen in the center of Glacier Ice Rink, where sawdust and wood chips had replaced the frozen surface.
Brenna Glidewell said she came to the fair early Saturday to get her mini-beef-category Hereford steer ready to show. She took the animal to the washing pen to rinse it off, then blow-dried and combed through its hair to make it look its best. She said in the last few weeks leading up to the auction, she had grown very attached to her steer.
“I love my animal. It’s hard not to, with the time and effort you put into it,” she said.
In the ring, as auctioneer Bo Carpenter rattled off prices in rapid fire, Glidewell said she did her best to remember to smile and enjoy the moment. Her 775-pound blue ribbon steer garnered a price of $2 per pound from Pruyn Veterinary Hospital.
Glidewell, an 18-year-old from Lolo, said she will be using the money she earned to go to UM next year to study education.
“I have sisters in 4-H, and I’ll definitely be helping them,” she said.
After all the steers were bought and several turkeys had been brought through in cages and sold, Emma Stensrud, owner of this year’s grand champion hog, was the first of the pig-raisers to step into the auction circle.
This is Stensrud’s fourth year in 4-H, always raising hogs. The Florence native said to get a good price, the preparation and appearance can be as important as the months of raising them.
“I want to make sure he looks OK, and make sure I look OK,” said Stensrud, adjusting her dazzling rhinestone belt buckle.
She said she named her pig Bubbles because “you can’t say it sadly.”
It seems to have paid off. Stensrud, 12, led her hog around the pen, using a short stick to help steer and prod him forward as the bidding price shot up. Once again it was Henry of Rocky Mountain Rental who won, buying the 253-pound animal for $8.50 per pound.
“People bought steers and hogs from me when I was little. Why shouldn’t I buy them back now?” he said.
Stensrud said while she’ll be saving most of her money, she wants to donate part of it to Watson Children’s Shelter.