Four grand champion hogs later, Sequim eighth-grader Austin Wagner, 13, said he takes pride in raising quality animals.
“I like raising pigs,” he said. “It’s a responsibility like having a pet.”
As a member of the 4-H Lambchops Club, he’s going into his fifth year raising animals to sell at the Clallam County Junior Livestock Auction on Saturday, Aug. 20.
Wagner and several other student participants are entering about 70 lots of cattle, chickens, lambs, pigs and rabbits.
Leslie Carpenter, auction treasurer, said it’s the first time in a while that all these species have been auctioned for the event.
Students use money from the auction to pay for next year’s animal projects and to save for college.
Wagner is raising three hogs and selling two at the auction. His mom, Danielle Wagner, said she was in 4-H growing up and that it helps children as young as 9 years old to learn necessary business skills.
Carpenter said the auction has provided a lot of personal experiences for her two daughters, Ruminta, 21, and Bayleigh, 12.
“My eldest daughter has been in 4-H since she was 9. I can’t even express all the great things she’s gleaned from the program,” Carpenter said. “Through public presentations, she’s built a lot of confidence and become a great public speaker.” Bayleigh continues in 4-H and plans to sell a miniature Hereford steer.
Carpenter said 4-H and FFA programs are better rounded than just raising animals.
“It’s a hands-off program for parents,” she said. “They want it to be all about the kids with having older kids mentoring younger kids.”
The Schroepfer siblings, sister and brother Becky, 14, and Jamie, 11, of Sequim, have been in the 4-H Rascals Club a while and raised five pigs between them for the auction.
Becky said she likes knowing that she’s raising a quality animal someone will eat.
Their mom Tammy Schroepfer said she was in 4-H, too, and that it also helps give children a sense of responsibility. Prior to the auction, participants must send out letters, talk to bidders and sell raffle tickets while continuing take care of their animals.
Both Becky and Jamie said it’s important for children to be involved with the auction because it helps promote preserving farmland.
Animals in the auction are considered short-term projects. Students raise cattle for 10 months, lambs and pigs beginning in April and all poultry about 55 days before auction.
“Kids have to raise those animals that they have to be a finished product,” Carpenter said. “It’s really important for them to have the knowledge of a feed program and quality assurance training. They know they are putting something on the dinner plate that is not only tasty but safe.”
Wagner said he got his pigs in March and they’ll weigh about 230 pounds for auction.
The poor weather has affected their weight gain and if it’s too hot or cold, they won’t grow properly, Danielle Wagner said.
Carpenter said some children don’t break even or profit from the auction but do it because they love raising animals.
“The projects are very hard work. Imagine trying to tame a 1,000-pound steer that wants no part of you and teaching it to walk on a little nylon halter as if a very well-trained dog,” Carpenter said. “Imagine working with a pig that does not walk with anything attached to it, yet you must train it to move along at your will. These are not easy tasks.”
Organizers of the auction said auction participation and support has shrunk slowly each year.
The Schroepfers said they always need more bidders and people to come to the fair in general because the more people that come, the higher the premiums they receive for winning ribbons and putting toward future projects.
Despite a slight downturn, last year various buyers donated more than 3,600 pounds of pork and 5,500 pounds of beef to several charity organizations.
The Clallam County Junior Livestock Auction began in 1991. Students can join the auction in third grade, but they can start raising animals in kindergarten.
Anyone can support the auction as an individual, business, group or by donation.
For more information, call the 4-H office at 417-2398 or visit www.clallam.net/countyfair/. The Clallam County Fair runs Aug. 18-21.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.