By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT ANGELES — For 65 agriculturally minded youths, the Clallam County Fair is all about the animals they raised as members of 4-H and FFA.
The centerpiece of the fair for children 9 to 18 years old — who have put blood, sweat and tears into raising cattle, hogs, goats, sheep, turkeys, rabbits and chickens — is Saturday's Clallam County Junior Livestock Auction, said Jaymie VanGorden, a member of the auction committee.
Animal showing began Thursday and continues today, during which hundreds of farm animals are judged for their quality and the children for their showmanship in presenting the animals they have raised.
At 1 p.m. Saturday at the swine arena, the animals will be sold to the highest bidder.
The money will repay the cost of raising the animal and, in many cases, becomes the basis for a college fund for many students, VanGorden said.
“They learn to go through rigorous inspection, quality assurance. They jump through a lot of hoops,” she said.
For instance, Colby Beckstrom, 17, who will be a Port Angeles High School senior this fall, plans to use the money from the sale of his three cattle, six hogs, 60 chickens and several turkeys to attend Peninsula College.
The animals are hand-raised personally by each member of 4-H or FFA — once known as Future Farmers of America — and have the best of living conditions, Colby said.
Every animal in the sale is “red ribbon or higher,” which guarantees high-quality meat, he said.
However, that also means the auction is often filled with tears in addition to the satisfaction of a job well done.
VanGorden said the program has grown this year, as many new young members have joined and have just finished raising their first animals.
“There are 15 more kids this year,” she said.
Colby said it takes some time to learn how to raise an animal and then let it go.
“A lot of our first-timers have a hard time,” he said.
“These kids spend every day out with them. You have to work with them a lot, so they are heartbroken,” he added.
All sales are terminal; they are sent to the Farmer George meat shop in Port Orchard for custom butchering after the sale.
Prices for butchering are not included in the auction price and vary according to the animal purchased and buyers' choices of butchering.
Bidders include not only local businesses and individuals who show up every year to help support 4-H and FFA but also families who are looking for a good price for high-quality meat, VanGorden said.
Donations without a purchase also can be made to any individual member, to all of those who raised a certain type of animal or to be shared by all participants.
Multiple families can split the cost of a steer or hog if a whole animal is too much to store, she said.
In recent years, average live weight prices have been $3.01 a pound for steers, $3.30 for lambs or $3.30 for hogs.
Chickens and rabbits are sold in pens of three, while the larger animals are sold individually.
To register today as a bidder for the auction, phone VanGorden at 360-461-9681.
Registration also will be taken between 11:30 a.m. and noon Saturday at the swine arena.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.