Dec. 3 4-H auction could make you a cattle baron

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If you always have fancied yourself a cattle baron, but getting up in the middle of the night during calving season isn't your cup of latte, the Four H Bar Cattle Company has a deal for you.

The Routt County 4-H Scholarship Committee is hosting a heifer auction and dinner at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Steamboat Smokehouse. The purpose is to raise funds for the Routt County 4-H Scholarship foundation by building the 4-H Bar herd. The Four H Bar brand is an authentic Routt County brand that has been leased from Diane Holly.

Here's how it works: Local businesses, organizations and individuals are invited to attend the dinner and take part in bidding on one of 11 bred heifers that have been made available by area ranch families. The ranch families have agreed to "host" the heifer and bear the cost of caring for it year after year. The opening bid for a heifer is $1,200, which is the market price for a heifer due to deliver a calf in the spring, CSU extension agent C.J. Mucklow said.

The successful bidder will receive a photograph of the heifer, the family that is hosting it and the ranch where its calf will be raised. In addition, they'll receive annual updates on the cow's progress and an opportunity to meet its calves in person at the annual auction (future auctions are likely to be held at ranches). Each year's calf represents the payoff to the scholarship fund, which helps Routt County seniors in 4-H move on to their college careers.

Mucklow said the sale of each calf could be expected to bring about $500, which will be added to the endowment of the scholarship fund. Another payoff could come in the opportunity for successful heifer bidders to build relationships with the agricultural community.

The fund recently was organized as a nonprofit organization, and the auction price of the heifers is tax deductible as a charitable contribution.

Routt County 4-H has about 250 participating members and 90 adult volunteers. Every year, between 20 and 30 of the students graduate from area high schools, CSU extension agent Jay Whaley said. And participation is evenly divided among youngsters who are actively involved in agriculture and those who aren't. The scholarship fund was established in 1994 with a $500 donation from Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. During the intervening decade, the fund has been able to award 89 scholarships totaling more than $108,000. Scholarship recipients need not pursue a career in an agriculture-related field. Past recipients are working in banking, engineering and nursing.

The endowment is at about $250,000, and the goal is to build it to $1 million, Whaley said.

Each rancher will make a considerable investment in the Four H Bar cows,Whaley pointed out. The average annual maintenance cost of a cow is between $300 and $350, much of which is attributable to more than two tons of hay they consume during the winter.

With 11 participating ranches, the scholarship fund should earn about $5,500 annually. And each cow, if it continues to produce calves for the average six years, will contribute up to $3,000. When the cow stops producing calves and is shipped to the processing plant, the residual hamburger value also will go to the scholarship fund.

Ski Corp. marketing executive Andy Wirth, who serves on the scholarship committee, said the group hopes to produce a "Heifers of Routt County" calendar in time for 2006. Other members of the committee include Adele Carlson, Terry Jost, Mary Kay Monger, Ken Riskin, Ceena Rossi, Lynne Sherrod, Colby Townsend and Karin Utterback-Norman.

Seats for the Dec. 3 dinner and auction are limited, and RSVPs are requested at 879-0825.

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