The New Hampshire 4-H Livestock Auction is held annually in September at the Hopkinton State Fair. This year’s show and auction will take place on Monday, September 2nd. Beef, swine, goat and lamb are raised by 4-Her’s, shown and then sold by live weight at auction.
The work starts much earlier in the year for 4-H Livestock Auction participants. 4-Hers invest a lot of time and money into raising a healthy market animal, maintaining accurate records and recruiting buyers for the final sale. 4-Hers are expected to complete all of the necessary tasks that a full-scale farm would to produce a quality product and turn a profit. We caught up with some of this year’s participants for a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into a successful 4-H Livestock Auction project and to learn more about what we can expect in September.
What’s your name and what clubs are you in?
Lauren Gardner. I'm from Merrimack County, but I am in a lot of clubs. I'm in the Rolling Bones 4-H Dog Club, the Nannyberry Lane 4-H Goat Club, Merrimack 4-H County Swine Club, the Millville 4-H club and I am part of the Junior Leaders.
Wow. So you’re a little busy.
Is this your first year with the Livestock Auction?
Actually I have been with the auction since they opened it up to all of the species. I think that was three years ago.
What kind of animals do you bring to the auction?
I bring meat goats. They are a meat/dairy cross. They are leaner than just regular meat goats.
Tell me about what it is like to raise a meat goat.
Well, it can be hard. Meat goats can be really loud. They have very good voices, so you definitely know when it's time to feed them. They yell at us and can be a little bossy. It's fun though, you work with the goat from the time they are born on the farm. We do get a little attached to them.
What have you learned?
I have to keep records of all of the food, expenses and income. I bring them to other fairs and show them, so I generate a little income from premiums. I have to keep track of so many numbers. I have to do a lot of math because we usually don't feed the auction animals separately from the other goats. My brother and I both raise animals so we have to divide the costs among the animals in the stalls.
There's so much to take away from it. I mean, 4-H in general is a great place to learn new skills. For the auction we have to do a lot of advertising. There are a few bigger buyers - think Pepsi and Coke. If you get them both to bid on your animal? Then you've got a bidding war!
How do you recruit buyers?
Usually I go to a business or send an email or letter with our auction pamphlets, and then a blurb about me, my animal and how I have raised it. I also include a bit about how the auction works and how money from the sale goes back into my projects. I use it for grain and breeding, and then raising a baby up for auction next year. I might buy some new supplies like hoof trimmers for the goats or a new grain scoop.
What would you say to someone interested in joining the 4-H Livestock Auction program?
If they are really interested - which we want to make sure they don't drop out halfway through and get stuck with an animal - I would help them find an animal, and then I would coach them through the calculations and record keeping. I could share tips on how to get your animal more muscular. Muscle is meat and we sell by live weight at the auction. We weigh them that morning and the bidding goes up by the pound. The more muscular they are the heavier they will be. They will look better too, so buyers will be more likely to bid on your animal.
Anything else you would like people to know about the livestock auction?
It changes a lot of kids' perspectives. Kids might take meat for granted. They might not know how much work goes into raising an animal. Raising an animal changes how you look at the meat you buy and how much hard work it takes.