Auctioning hard work: Livestock sold at Berrien County Youth Fair large animal auction

An exhibitor ushers his swine around the pen during the animal auction Friday at the Berrien County Youth Fair in Berrien Springs. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

An exhibitor ushers his swine around the pen during the animal auction Friday at the Berrien County Youth Fair in Berrien Springs. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BERRIEN SPRINGS — It was another world within the animal pen, where various livestock were showcased in front of hundreds of potential buyers Friday.

The auctioneer’s voice carried through the Show Arena’s high beams at an inhuman rate. Exhibitors calmly patted their animals and spoke a brevity of reassurances. In the center of the arena, below three television monitors that ran a constant stream of animal names and their weights, stood Katrena Klopfenstein.

Taking part in the large animal auction for the Berrien County Youth Fair, the Galien resident led her steer known as Diesel, who lumbered back and forth through the circular pen.

At 1,140 pounds, the steer is the culmination of Klopfenstein’s tireless work and what is expected to bring in a fair amount of money that will go toward her college tuition.

“We usually start breaking them in a couple months in, when they get off the cow,” Klopfenstein said. “We work them a couple of times a week. Every morning and night you have to feed them and take care of their coat and make sure their environment is healthy enough. All of that is to eventually get them to the auction.”

As one of the auctioneers, Jerry Glassman said the auction is important to the exhibitors as it serves as a reward for their work. For Glassman, the auction teaches the younger participants about work ethics and what it takes to succeed in the farming industry.

“As long as I have been auctioneering, the fair still brings butterflies,” he said. “There’s an intensity to it and one of the reasons for that is you want each child to get a fair price for their animals. They invest a lot of time into these animals, so it’s important we get them as much as we can.”

Glassman kicked things off with the Grand Champion Dairy winner and bidding the sale of a gallon of its milk. Berrien Springs resident Matthew Koebel was showing the dairy champion, who was bred by the Schueler family.

The gallon of milk from the winning dairy cow sold for $10,650. Koebel said the money would not be pocketed, but instead be given toward the new Ag-Expo Center at the fairgrounds.

“I’m giving it back to the fair so my kids and future generations have fun and enjoy the fairgrounds,” he said.

Years of work

Through the rest of the auction, spotters scanned the crowd and yelled when someone showed interest in the current livestock. These “bid catchers” would occasionally lift an arm or tap an ear to signify a price and its bidder.

Allison Mitchell took part in both the steer and swine auctions – showing two of her pigs and one of her cousin’s steers. Having done so with beef, swine, rabbits and horses, the Buchanan resident said it can be sad to see her livestock sold. After her first sale, Mitchell said she learned what it meant to be a farmer.

Haylee Legault, 7, right, of Buchanan joins her brother, Caden Legault, 9, left, as they groom their hogs for auction Friday at the Berrien County Youth Fair in Berrien Springs. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Haylee Legault, 7, right, of Buchanan joins her brother, Caden Legault, 9, left, as they groom their hogs for auction Friday at the Berrien County Youth Fair in Berrien Springs. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

“It’s a proud moment because all of your hard work is out on display,” Mitchell said. “With trying to feed your animals and getting them to be the best they can be, it pays off at the auction when you’re presenting your animal.”

The work mounts over time as exhibitors form that special relationship through walking, washing, feeding and grooming the animal.

At 20 years old, Mitchell said she has been showing since she was 5 years old. Friday marked the end of her final year as an exhibitor at the fair.

“It’s definitely bittersweet, but I’m excited to come back and still help exhibitors,” she said. “It’s nice because being an older exhibitor, the younger ones come and ask me for help if they need something. It’s nice to be that role model and I’m going to come back next year and continue to help people.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Aug. 22, 2015)

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