There is a technique for carrying a chicken into a show ring at auction, according to Hunter Meek.
You tuck the head under your arm, grasp the legs firmly with your fingers so the bird can’t scrabble free, and parade around the ring with the chicken’s backside proudly greeting spectators.
If it were just any old chicken it wouldn’t matter. But when it’s a grand champion and best in show, and the bids are flying, you don’t want your bird to go anywhere except home with its new owner.
So around 3:15 p.m. Saturday, there was Hunter, who is 10 and who has been showing chickens and goats at the Boyd County Fair for five years, circling the ring nervously, one of his chickens peeking even more nervously out from under his arm, with a friend trailing them and holding the second of his pair of champions.
Hunter left the auction $350 richer, a good price for a grand champion, according to Boyd County agricultural extension agent Lyndall Harned.
In fact, buyers were shelling out some pretty good money for 4-H and FFA animals Saturday, Harned said, and there were two reasons.
Primarily, this year’s project animals were high quality and worth the prices. Also, there’s a new rule at the fair, which limits each young exhibitor, other than grand and reserve champion winners, to selling one animal apiece at auction.
Previous auctions had gotten overly lengthy when children sold multiple animals, and because bidders have limited amounts of money to spend, it diluted the prices for the animals that were sold, Harned said.
This year’s auction was the first at which there were more registered bidders than animals for sale, he said. The effect was a sellers’ market and exhibitors reaped the profits.
Cyle Shannon’s grand champion market steer sold for $1.90 per pound, and at 1,135 pounds that came to $2,156.50 for the 17-year-old, who said he will save the money to buy another steer next year.
“Next year is my last year and I want to go out with a bang,” he said. Cyle has done well so far; his steer last year won grand champion too.
The sale of his steer was provisional because he will be entering it in the Kentucky State Fair. He didn’t offer a prediction of his chances of winning, but said champion steers there sell in the five-figure range.
If his steer wins, he’ll sell it there and the county buyer will get a refund.
The first exhibitor to sell at auction was Citori Branham, whose grand champion sheep went for $3.40 per pound. That came to $376.72 for 110.8 pounds of lamb.
The 9-year-old from the Ashland area said she went into her first year of fair competition with confidence because she’d raised a “real meaty” lamb, which is among the qualities judges look for.
Being first in the ring made her a bit nervous, she said, especially when her lamb, which she has named Cottonball, started nibbling the flower arrangements during its photo shoot with the buyer.
Buyers had their choices of some fine animals, according to Harned, who said judges had been impressed by the quality this year. The judge in the chicken competition, for instance, had called Hunter Meek’s pair the best he’d seen at any fair this year, and the beef judge had called several of the steers state-fair quality.
Although the new rule limited the profit potential for exhibitors, many chose to show multiple animals anyway, Harned said. “I think that speaks volumes for the quality of our kids,” he said.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2652.