HELENA – There’s an unmistakable rhythm to the annual 4-H livestock auction at the Last Chance Stampede and Fair, centered on the tempo of the auctioneer’s calls. Hundreds of people watched Saturday as Dan Pate of Pate Auction read off bids on pigs, sheep, goats, cattle, rabbits and poultry.
But long before the excitement of auction day, 4-H members are hard at work to make sure the animals are ready.
Josie Hamilton, an incoming senior at Capital High, has been around the 4-H program for years.
“I’ve been in 4-H for nine years – but my older sisters did it, so pretty much my whole life,” she said.
This year, she brought a market goat and market pig to the fair. She bought the pig, named Nashville, at the Deaton Show Pigs auction in March.
“We go, and then hopefully we pick the pig that I think is best, and if I get it, I get it,” she said. “This year I got him, so that was pretty cool.”
Josie then spent four months raising him – mixing a special diet so he would gain the correct amount of weight, and walking him 20 minutes a day. By the time the fair arrived, he weighed 232 pounds.
“They grow really fast,” she said.
Josie’s instinct about Nashville was proven right, as he was named grand champion at the fair.
On Saturday, 4-H members washed and brushed their animals so they’d look their best in the show ring. After that, it was up to the buyers.
Being a grand champion, Nashville drew a top price: $12 per pound. But Josie said the best part hasn’t been the awards, but the people she’s met through 4-H.
“Having fun is more important than winning,” she said.
All together, 204 animals were up for sale at this year’s auction, including more than 100 pigs.