Sale of Champions rewards kids for diligent work
JACKSON, Miss. -- Alex Deason made members of his 4-H livestock judging team a deal they could not resist.
“I told them if any of them could get a hog in the Dixie National Sale of Junior Champions, they could shave my head,” said Deason, 4-H agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Sunflower County.
The 4-H’ers took this wager seriously. They not only got one hog in the sale. Team members got four hogs in the sale. And Deason? He has a freshly shaven head.
Sarah Thomas Smith, Sherman Timbs and Anna Grace Rowland’s champion hogs were among 700 hogs judged on Feb. 7 and chosen for the sale. Rowland and Smith each had one hog in the sale, while Timbs had two.
The Sale of Junior Champions brings together generous buyers who pay much more than market price for livestock raised by members of 4-H and the National FFA Organization, formerly known as Future Farmers of America. The sale began in 1970 as a way to encourage students to continue putting effort into livestock projects.
Deason said the bet was a lot of fun, but his goal was to build interest in the livestock judging team. Rowland, along with six other Sunflower County 4-H’ers, now want to join the team. Members of the team learn to recognize show-worthy animals, but, more importantly, they also build crucial reasoning and public speaking skills.
Smith, who wants to be a veterinarian, said she expects to hone her communication abilities as a member of the team.
“Being on the team helps me understand better what the judges are looking for in each animal,” Smith said. “But having to present my reasons for judging an animal a certain way helps me become more comfortable with talking in a public setting.”
During the weeklong 2016 Dixie National Livestock Show in Jackson, judges selected 14 hogs, 12 lambs, nine goats and eight steers for the sale. They brought in a preliminary total of $348,987.
Dean Jousan, MSU Extension Service 4-H livestock specialist, said participants often use the funds generated from their champion animals for college or to invest in next year’s animal.
“Our youth spend countless hours during the year getting their animals ready for this livestock show,” Jousan said. “The show is the culmination of a year of hard work. It is the ultimate reward. We appreciate the buyers, contributors, sale committee, Extension staff members and other supporters who help us make this sale a success.”
Animals purchased at the sale are donated to charitable organizations such as Stewpot, Methodist Children’s Home, Salvation Army and French Camp Academy.
Preliminary figures indicate steers generated a total of $95,950. Hogs earned a preliminary total of $120,387. Goats produced a preliminary total of $60,700. Lambs reaped a preliminary total of $71,950.
Each year, the sale’s promotional committee also raises educational scholarship funds. Six premier exhibitors won $2,000 scholarships, and 29 other exhibitors won $1,500 scholarships.
This year’s livestock show included 1,568 4-H and FFA members and 2,298 head of livestock.