Livestock Sale has multiple meanings for area youths

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette— Ruby and Jewel Laux pose at their Chassell Township family farm with their lamb and steer, which they are entering in the Houghton County Fair Junior Market Livestock Auction Friday.

CHASSELL TOWNSHIP — For buyers, Friday’s Junior Market Livestock Sale will mean a higher-quality meat than could be gotten from a factory farm. It will also mean money for Jewel Laux’s college fund, or for Ruby Laux to put back into next year’s lambs.

“It will probably taste a little better,” Jewel said. “And it’s just fun to see what different people can do, and the different animals and how kids handle them.”

Jewel Laux, 14, and Ruby Laux, 10, are among the 40 children entering livestock in this year’s Junior Market Livestock Sale, held 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Houghton County Fairgrounds livestock pavilion.

Registration starts at 4:30 p.m. Buyers can look over the livestock anytime between the fair’s opening and the auction.

Grand Champion and Reserve Champion steers go first, followed by the top hogs and lambs. Once they are sold off, the other steers, hogs and lambs follow.

Photo provided by Gretchen Hein— Kyla Strom poses with her hog, which will also be part of Friday’s livestock auction.

Jewel is showing a steer, while Ruby is showing a lamb.

“I like everything about it, because it’s fun to bring them on walks and feed them,” Ruby said. “I also like picking lambs out in the spring, because you get to an auction and see all the different types of lambs.”

That auction, held at Steve Palosaari’s farm in May, has livestock from a number of farms around the area.

Her previous times at the fair, Jewel also raised lambs. This year, she decided to switch to steer, which some of her friends also show.

“I just wanted to try something different, since I had been showing lambs for seven years,” she said.

In getting the animals ready for auction, they concentrate on feeding and exercise. Judges and buyers are looking for the right balance between structure, finish — “the show term for fat,” Jewel said — and muscling.

“A lot of people ask me if I’m showing a steer if I just want it to be fat, but that’s never what you want,” she said.

They take the animals on walks on hills and trails nearby.

“And sometimes in the evening, I let him loose and he gets to run around the yard,” Ruby said of her lamb.

Jewel makes her steer step over things, exercising its legs and giving it better muscling.

They also practice setting up the animals and getting them used to the kind of noises that would be at the fair.

Steers start earlier. Jewel began raising hers in November, while Ruby got her lamb in May.

In November, Jewel’s steer was somewhere between 500 to 600 pounds; Ruby’s lamb was about 54.

When last weighed at the Baraga County Fair, they were 1,112 pounds and 108, respectively, clearing the 1,000- and 100-pound minimums.

A 1,200-pound steer will yield about 720 pounds of meat; for a 110-pound lamb, it’s about 65 pounds.

Naturally, steers require more food than the lambs, Jewel said. They’re also much lazier.

“I try to walk him a lot too, but he’s not as motivated as the lambs,” she said.

Any child who enters their animal in the fair must keep a detailed record book showing the cost of raising the animal, including the initial purchase price and the cost of food. The animals are also displayed at the fair, where they are one of the most popular draws.

The animal stays under the child’s care at the fair until it closes. Rainbow Packing then takes the animal to its facility for processing.

Saying goodbye to the animal is bittersweet, but the experience is ultimately rewarding, Jewel said.

“You spend every single day with them, and you teach them tricks if they’re going on the obstacle course and you practice setting them up, and they just kind of look at you and have that cute little face and it’s hard to say goodbye sometimes,” she said. “But it teaches you a lot of good things too, and you know they had a good life versus the factory life.”


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