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Champion livestock projects teach about animals, people
JACKSON, Miss. -- Exhibitors in the annual Dixie National Sale of Junior Champions learn important lessons about livestock through their projects, but one family discovered just as much about people.
Tyler Owen, 13, and Jacob Owen, 10, of Jones County qualified to participate in the sale with their reserve champion light heavyweight goat, Splits. Their journey to this coveted sale of market animals began when each was about 5 years old and their parents, Jennifer and Matt Owen of Moselle, encouraged them to show livestock.
“They can learn more responsibility and dedication raising and showing livestock than they can in any other sport,” Jennifer Owen said before the sale on Thursday. “It takes a lot of effort to get up at 5:30 in the morning to care for animals.”
While the boys were learning those important life lessons, their family faced a great tragedy. Matt Owen died from an aneurism in November 2013. He was 36.
“Our ‘show family’ has made the difference in how we have managed emotionally and in other ways. The boys have made lifelong friends,” Jennifer Owen said.
Ronnie Herrington, a Jones County resident and a member of the Sale of Junior Champions Promotion Committee, has known the Owen family all their lives. When the boys’ goat entered the sale arena, Herrington was determined to win the bid.
“The community has really rallied around this family. Everyone knows and loves them,” he said. “Showing livestock keeps them busy and moving forward. It’s an understatement that Matt would be proud of all of them.”
For Tyler, winning is not everything, but success is fun and exciting.
“All the time and effort to teach the goats how to walk and brace for the judge were worth it,” he said. “It was really exciting to make it into the sale.”
Younger brother Jacob said win or lose, he is determined to have fun.
“I like raising and showing pigs better than goats. They are not as easy to feed, but pigs stay where they belong. They just eat, sleep and walk,” he said.
Soon, their little sister, Anna Claire, 7, will follow in their footsteps.
The Owens and other qualifying exhibitors sold their market animals in the 46th annual Sale of Junior Champions on Feb. 12 in Jackson. Generous buyers pay significantly more than market value for the animals as a tribute to the dedication and hard work on the part of the members of 4-H programs and the National FFA Organization.
Dean Jousan, Mississippi State University Extension Service 4-H livestock specialist, said the 2015 sale set a new record total of $381,995 for 43 animals. The previous record -- $369,125 --was set last year with 44 animals.
“The success of this sale can be attributed to our promotional committee members who find new buyers to participate each year as well as to the buyers who return year after year because they recognize the value of these livestock projects, both to teach responsible work ethics and to promote agriculture,” he said.
In addition to the sale of the champion steers, lambs, hogs and goats, $55,500 in scholarships were presented to 35 Mississippi youths.