by Jennifer Showalter
STAUNTON, VA — Believed to be the largest show of its kind east of the Mississippi, the Augusta County 4-H and FFA Market Animal Show is more than just any little county show. With 68 years in the books now, this annual outing has quite the story behind it.
The show has been held at the Staunton Union Stockyard since its beginning. In those days the show was referred to as the Baby Beef Show. Exhibitors experimented with fattening cattle on grain for a short period of time so the beef would be ready for market in less than two years from the date of birth.
In the 1950s the show’s name changed to the Fat Stock Show. Exhibitors were allowed to show sheep and hogs in addition to the fattened steers. The organizers at the time wanted the agricultural community to see that there were advantages to good breeding and feed rationing. They also wanted to provide the youth with a learning experience. The show changed its name once again during the 70s to the Market Animal Show. With more and more participants and livestock, the show was spread over a two-day period with the sale on the evening of the second day.
With only a few changes over the past 68 years, the Augusta County 4-H and FFA Market Animal Show is still going strong. This year around 200 4-H and FFA members from Augusta County came together for two days of stiff completion. With 101 market steers, 157 market hogs, and 204 market lambs being exhibited, the Staunton Union Stockyard quickly turned into the happening place. Kyle Cupp, Ohio State University’s Livestock Judging coach, had the task of sorting through all of the classes and working with the exhibitors.
Jake McCall exhibited the grand champion steer. This 1350 choice plus grade steer sold to White Hill Catering, JP Lee Hills Farms, Don Benner, T & J Cattle Company, Holly Hill Farm, Daltons on the Sycamore, Middlebrook Farms, Brown Cattle Company, CSF Cattle Company, Ward Realty, C. Wojo Cattle Company, Sheerwood Farm, and Ron Clark for $4 per pound. Jonathan Powell exhibited the reserve grand champion steer. This 1320 choice minus grade steer sold to Augusta Cooperative for $2.20 per pound.
Kyle Gray exhibited the grand champion lamb. This 130 pound lamb sold to JT and Laura Begoon for $15 per pound. Hannah Cox of Staunton stood next in line with the reserve grand champing lamb. Also weighing in at 130 pounds, this lamb sold for $9 a pound to Cattleman Supply.
Zach McCall exhibited the grand champion market hog. His 270 hog sold to Real McCoy Genetics for $6 per pound. Olivia Grace Blackwell followed with the reserve grand champion market hog. Her 245 pound hog sold for $3 per a pound to Medical Centers Pharmacy.
The highlight of this year’s sale was not the sale of the champions, but rather a generous donation by one of the exhibitors. Nathan Zullig donated the proceeds from his lamb sale to the American Cancer Society in honor of his grandmother, Mrs. Simonetti, who is battling ovarian cancer. The lamb sold for $20 a pound to Tom and Peggy Sheets who donated the animal back to Zullig. Zullig, from the Stewart Middle School FFA, promptly re-sold the lamb and it brought $10 a pound from Charlie and Eric Obaugh. When all was said and done, his lamb raised $3,900 for cancer research.
Grossing $394,679, the sale was up $20,000 from last year. Overall, the steers averaged $1.68 per pound, the lambs averaged $4.48 per pound, and the hogs averaged $1.80 per pound.
The money the youth hopefully made was one thing, but the educational experiences and friendships created at the 2013 Augusta County 4-H and FFA Market Animal Show far out valued anything else. “Each exhibitor gets a full year’s lesson in life skills. They learn how to plan, organize, prioritize, and budget their time. Youth who participate in this event take full responsibility for their project animals. Their parents provide support, but ultimately it is up to each individual exhibitor to make the best out of their project animals. Even though this event depends largely on individual independence and self-direction, the youth also work together to foster a spirit of cooperation among exhibitors. Older exhibitors mentor young exhibitors and help show them the ropes of exhibiting. Exhibitors learn responsibility and leadership. Even though many adult volunteers make the show happen each year, the exhibitors are doing their part to make the show a reality. This includes more than just getting their individual animals ready for the show. It is a tremendous learning and growth experience for everyone involved,” says volunteer Betty Jo Hamilton.
Each year the show is dedicated to an individual or couple who has helped the Market Animal Show be the success that it is. This year’s show was dedicated to J.R. and Betty Coleman. The Colemans have been longtime supporters of the Market Animal Show. Roughly 20 years ago they organized a 4-H club in Middlebrook, VA specifically to promote youth involvement in the Market Animal Show. The original club had more than 100 members with an equal number of adult volunteers. Another 4-H livestock club grew out of the original Middlebrook club. “Both clubs remain active today and are largely responsible for the tremendous youth interest in the Market Animal Show,” says Hamilton.
Even though this event has a long history, it still takes a tremendous amount of planning and team work each year. Turning the stockyard into a show-friendly place for two days in between normal weekly auctions is no easy task. “It takes a Herculean effort to mount this exhibition each year. Adult volunteers, supporting organizations, and area businesses are all vital to the success of this event. Each organization that supports this event makes it possible for Augusta County’s youth to have a showcase livestock event. There are behind-the-scenes efforts from so many folks that make this show a success. It’s an event that proves each year what is possible when everyone works together to support young people in our county,” says Hamilton.
by Jennifer Showalter