Our Opinion: Livestock show a proud tradition for Wilson youth

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Considering the outsize role agriculture plays in Wilson County’s economy, it’s no surprise the annual 4-H Livestock Show and Sale holds the distinction of being our community’s largest single-day fundraiser.

Each year, the auction of show ring-tested hogs and steers hauls in roughly a quarter-million dollars for young showmen. Proceeds can be used to buy animals for 4-H members to show the following year, but much of the cash collected funds college scholarships.

Auction totals from Thursday evening’s sale have yet to be released, but we’re rooting for a banner year. If the enthusiasm from 4-Hers and the fine quality of their animals are any indication, the kids have earned a substantial sum.

“It’s a great event to come out to see our young people and the work that they have put into their projects,” Wilson County Cooperative Extension 4-H youth development agent Jessica Anderson said. “We really appreciate all of the community support that goes into purchasing all of these animals at the livestock show.”

In 4-H parlance, each pig and steer is a “project,” reflecting the months of time, energy and effort invested into each animal. Show and sale participants record their entries’ beginning weight, track how much feed they consume and calculate the cost of the feed and the average daily weight gain. Those figures are kept in project recordbooks that can chronicle the journey from scrawny calf or runt of the litter to robust blue ribbon-winning stock.

“4-H encompasses a lot of the science, technology, engineering and math programs,” Anderson noted. “Livestock is just one of the 88 program areas that 4-H offers.”

Proper care, feeding and raising of the animals matters. For the second consecutive year, 4-Her Ross Hinnant received the award for the grand champion steer on Thursday. That doesn’t happen by accident. Just as drivers, not cars, win the trophy on race day, livestock shows are very much a reflection of individual human effort.

Life lessons are learned during the months of preparation leading up to the judging.

“It teaches you that you have to work for what you want to get and you see the life cycle of a pig,” 10-year-old Logan Ballance told Times reporter Drew C. Wilson earlier this month. “It’s a lot of fun and it teaches you responsibility and it teaches you hard work ethic.”

Logan’s sincerity was rewarded this week when judges named her junior showmanship champion and awarded her hogs the title of grand champion pen of three. The imposing porkers weighed in at an average of 259 pounds.

Cole Williamson of Lucama took the prize for reserve champion steer with Red Man. Fellow Lucama 4-Her Annah Claire Sullivan won the title of junior champion showman with Clyde, the best county calf winner at a hulking 1,375 pounds.

Trevor Williamson, also of Lucama, took the senior champion showman prize with his steer Bocephus. We’re sure Hank Williams Jr. would be proud.

Ethan Thompson of Lucama — must be something in the water there — earned honors for reserve champion pen of three hogs.

More than 150 buyers nabbed some of the county’s finest cows and pigs at last year’s show and sale. While farms were well-represented, dozens of local retail, manufacturing and professional service businesses chipped in, along with a county commissioner and a city manager.

Based solely on the sales receipts, we can’t be sure what becomes of every hog and steer, but it’s a safe bet they’re destined for the dinner plate. A 1,000-pound steer yields about 600 pounds of beef, and last year a top bidder for pigs was none other than Parker’s Barbecue.

As organizers finish crunching the numbers, we look forward to reporting the total proceeds of this year’s 4-H Livestock Show and Sale, and we thank the thousands of people — parents, 4-H members, extension agents, judges, spectators and bidders — who come together to make this memorable event come to fruition.

The Wilson County Livestock Association and the Wilson Chamber of Commerce sponsor the annual undertaking, and they deserve applause and recognition along with our star showmen.

Our show and sale is the largest single-county livestock auction of its kind in the state. It’s a proud tradition that’s uniquely Wilson, and it gives youngsters plenty of reason to take a well-earned bow.