MONTCALM TOWNSHIP — After 10 years of showing pigs at the Montcalm County 4-H Fair, recent Lakeview High School graduate Joe Main ended his 4-H career on a very high note.
Main, 18, was declared Grand Champion showing pigs for the fifth time after his pig sold for a fair record $14 per pound weighing in at 272 pounds.
“It was a lot of hard work and a lot of fun,” he said. “I have a lot of good memories over the 10 years.”
Main said he began showing pigs when he was 8 years old, following in the footsteps of his older siblings, and has learned a lot over the years about hard work through his experiences showing pigs.
“It’s all about the experience,” he said. “This teaches me what hard work will do for you and how rewarding it can be. If you work hard and dedicate yourself to something, good things will happen. I’ve loved this ever since the first year I’ve done it.”
Now heading to Michigan State University to study agricultural business and animal science, Main said he plans to keep his career heavily focused on animals and selling livestock.
“I’m still going to be involved in all of this,” he said. “I want to go into agricultural business and study animal science as well, hopefully ending up on a livestock judging team. I hope to continue raising showpigs and selling them in the future.”
For Ellie Nielsen, 10, and in just her second year of 4-H, it was a somber yet exciting day to see her calf, Fred, be sold at the auction.
“I think I’m still a little bit sad, but I’m happy that he’s going to a good place,” she said. “Raising a calf, it’s very hard work and you have to be consistent. It’s hard to get them to like you and not be afraid of you. You just have to work with them, pet them and make sure they know you’re not going to hurt them.”
Nielsen was awarded first place in her age group for Fred, who sold for $4.20 per pound and weighed 365 pounds.
“I was just happy that I got to be with him and I got to do 4-H,” she said. “He was a lot better than my calf last year. I raised him from the time he was little, feeding him from a bottle.”
Lasting about four and half hours, the auction totaled $195,168.11 in sales, up about $30,000 from last year.
Auctioneer Mike Petersen attributed the higher numbers to a great turnout as well as higher market prices.
“I thought things went really well today,” he said. “The last few years the steer market has been pretty iffy, but this year I thought the market was excellent.”
According to Petersen, the outside market for steer per pound is about $1.20, and the lowest bid at the auction for a steer was $1.30.
“Overall I think we had a really good sale,” he said. “The place was full and participation was excellent. Being that this facility is open, and on a hot day like today, we actually had a nice breeze that made it bearable.”
Fair Board member Lisa Johnson said despite the heat — temperatures were in the mid-90s — the auction couldn’t have turned out better.
“We were concerned with the weather we had that people would buy and then immediately leave, but the last items that sold still went really well,” she said. “I don’t think the heat affected the auction very much at all.”
Johnson attributed the new facilities to the relaxed atmosphere despite the heat.
“The walls here made a huge difference in the ventilation of the air,” she said. “The breeze and the higher ceiling really made a difference today.”
Johnson said precautions were taken with all of the animals.
“We didn’t put numbers on the pigs’ backs,” she said. “We didn’t want to do anything to agitate them and get them moving. We also wetted the sawdust today to keep them cool.”
At the end of the day, Johnson said the auction is about the kids involved, and couldn’t be happier with the way things went for them this year.
“Most of these kids were really geeked and very happy,” she said. “A lot of these kids are selling these animals and using the money to put toward college. It’s just a great experience for them. As we say around here, for most of these kids, the 4-H Fair and Christmas are their favorite times of the year.”