By Tony Wittkowski | Reporter | MLive – Muskegon Chronicle
SULLIVAN TOWNSHIP, MI — Walking along the pen’s fence, the Holstein known as Bow stopped and lifted his head up briefly at the onlooking crowd.
With seven years of 4-H under her belt, Kenna Botten ushered her bovine friend back around the pen that was layered with rubber mulch to the holding area. Bow was sold at Muskegon County Fairgrounds, and all the hard work Botten put in came full circle.
“It’s kind of crazy — you have to get all your animals washed and make sure there are no stains on them,” Botten said back in the holding area. “When buyers come through, they can see that you take care of your animals and want to buy them.”
Taking part in the Large Animal Livestock Auction for the Muskegon County Youth Fair on Thursday, July 24, livestock were sold by the pound as they were showcased in front of a few hundred people. Some slowly began to drop in price, while others peaked at $3.50 per pound. The first animal brought out was a 1,230-pound steer that went for $2.10 per pound.
Jenny Erffmeyer, who is the livestock committee superintendent and 4-H leader, was backstage and watched as every steer, swine, sheep and goat was sold.
“Most of these people are businessmen who come out to support the kids; they are supporting the program,” Erffmeyer said. “Some of these kids use this money for college education or funding next year’s project.”
Amid the blue jeans and green John Deere shirts, spectators held a pen and a pad of paper at the ready as the animals made their way around the pen. When an animal is sold, the exhibitor must get the invoice from the buyer, who writes down his number and the livestock he purchased.
The auctioneer’s voice echoed over the fairgrounds, spitting out numbers at an inhuman rate for the prospective buyers.
The chaotic nature of the auction came down to not just the animals, but the people involved with the event. Two men circled the enclosed pen and raised their hands while yelling to the auctioneer. These “bid catchers” scanned the crowd and yelled loudly when someone showed interest in the current livestock.
With smiles on their faces, the fair exhibitors walked their livestock around the pen, occasionally having to nudge and coerce the strong-headed animals to continue on their trek. Animals were eventually led in from an outside holding area behind the auctioneer’s stage.
One of the fair exhibitors, who was taking part in Muskegon’s auction for the first time, was Whitehall resident Jakob Hicks.
Auctioning off his dairy feeder steer named Dusty, Hicks was also auctioning a steer for the first time. However, the task didn’t seem to stack up the way he had figured.
“It’s a lot of work,” Hicks said. “We were told that there was a lot more profit in it, but when you start adding everything up – the cost of feed, corn, hay, show halter – it all adds up and you really don’t make that much.”
Meanwhile, back from their brief trek in front of the eager crowd, Botten and Bow made it back to the holding area, having reached their goal.
With a few taps on the rear end, the 5-month-old Holstein held his own in front of the auction’s spectators. The march out to the open pen in front of the crowd can be the hardest part for the animals and the exhibitors.
“It’s very nerve-wracking,” Botten said. “You want at least two bidders to bid high so you can get more money, and you want to make sure your animal acts well. It makes you look like you worked hard for it.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on July 24, 2014)