For her last year in 4-H, 19-year-old Janey Montieth of Hayden decided to do something different.
Instead of showing steers as she has in the past, Montieth raised and showed a lamb and hog, and the change paid off, literally.
The two animals were named grand champions at the Routt County Fair and together garnered $5,050 at the Junior Livestock Auction on Saturday.
Montieth was among more than 110 4-H and FFA students from throughout the county who auctioned animals they have spent months, and in some cases almost a year, preparing for fair.
Montieth's hog Salt was up against 50 hogs, while her lamb Violet competed against 25 animals. So what was Montieth's secret?
"I just try to raise something that looks like it would be good to eat later on," said Montieth, who plans to put her winnings toward expenses at Mesa State College where she will study nursing this fall.
For four hours, students ages 8 to 19 lined up steers, lambs, goats, hogs and poultry outside the auction ring where auctioneer Chad Green egged on stands of bidders.
Buyers consisted of individuals and businesses eager to support 4-H students' livestock projects. Some donate the meat from the animals or the buy-back value to nonprofit organizations.
"It's not necessarily about the meat but the support," said Jules Palyo, owner of Pack Country Outfitters, who purchased neighbor Josie Rossi's steer for $3,300. He planned to use the meat to feed his hunter customers this fall.
Overall, Green auctioned off 127 animals for $219,350. Extension agent C.J. Mucklow said in general the steers and lambs sold for higher prices than last year.
This year's grand champion steer, raised by 14-year-old Glenda Long of Oak Creek, fetched $3,700 from Cook Chevrolet. The average steer price was $3,050 -- about $800 more than the average price last year.
"I was very surprised and shocked. ... I didn't think my steer was going to win," said Long, who guessed the judges approved of her steer Crawl's height and conditioning.
Overall, judges look for the proper finish on animals as well as high muscle content with just the right amount of fat, particularly on the hindquarters, where most the meat comes from, Mucklow said.
While high prices are always good for the students, who often reinvest their winnings into next year's project or put it toward college, the community's participation is the most important aspect of the auction, he said.
"Prices aren't as important as the support we get from the community for the kids," Mucklow said.
An appropriate wrap up to the 4-H season, the auction is a chance for students to reap the rewards of their hard work and prepare for next year's livestock competitions.
"I've learned tons of responsibility and teamwork," Long said. "I've learned that there's a lot more to raising an animal than just putting it in a pen and feeding it."
The Routt County Fair and Rodeo will round out today with events throughout the day, including the Bobby Robinson Memorial Invitational bronc-riding contest from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and the Ranch Rodeo from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.
The rodeo, which is one of the most popular events at the fair, will pit teams of riders from local ranches against each other as they compete in team calf roping, trailer loading and other challenges displaying everyday ranch activities.
The carnival also will be at the fairground today from 3 to about 10 p.m.
-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org