BROOKSVILLE — Sumptuous eating and generous rewards for hard-working youthful producers of swine and beef cattle were on the minds of bidders at the junior livestock sales this week at the Hernando County Fair.
"Burgers and pulled pork," offered one wag. But more than dinner options, buyers said they were bidding "to support the kids."
Winning bids topped open-market prices, which pleased youths, 4-H and Future Farmers of America leaders and fair organizers. Many had been concerned that the sagging economy would mean fewer bidders and low sales prices.
As livestock officials, ringmen, and club advisers gathered minutes before the gavel went up on the market hog auction Tuesday, Rick Ahrens gave his prediction. "I might do a back flip if they average $2 (a pound)," said the agriculture teacher and FFA adviser at Hernando High School.
Ahrens should start to limber up. But, then, he did say "might."
The sale of 24 market hogs averaged $2.42 a pound.
The 270-pound grand champion, a Hampshire cross gilt raised by 18-year-old Tiffany Goodin of Ridge Manor, commanded $4 a pound from LRE Ground Services of Brooksville, an earth-moving construction firm. A similar bid bought the 260-pound barrow of the same breeding owned by Jessica Journigan, 15, of Brooksville. The winning bidder was Publix Supermarkets.
Goodin grossed $1,080 while Journigan's offer amounted to $1,040. Sale expenses of 6 percent were to be subtracted.
Both teens, members of the Brooksville Senior FFA under the direction of Ahrens, calculated they had at least $300 invested in their projects. That included purchase of the pigs as young shoats last fall, with feed, veterinary care and grooming supplies added in. The young women didn't put a value on their countless hours of feeding and care.
Said Hernando County Extension 4-H specialist Nancy Moores, "We're very pleased with our sale, considering the economy and what we've heard from others' (county fair sales)." The open market for finished hogs is about 36 cents a pound.
The largess of supporters went further.
Goodwin Brothers Construction Co. of Brooksville paid the top price of $4.20 a pound for a hog down in the sale order. The firm also upped its own bid to $2 a pound for another hog.
And the company spread its generosity to all. Goodwin Brothers announced donations of $75 to every hog exhibitor and $150 to every steer exhibitor. "They did that last year," noted Moores.
"Always huge supporters," added Ahrens.
Tiffany Goodin's father, Bruce, owner of Goodin Ranch, also stepped hugely to the plate. He bid a buyout price of 81 cents a pound for any hog the winning bidder didn't want to put in the freezer but just wanted to support the youth with their buy. The auction bid price went to the young producer. Bruce Goodin swallowed the difference between 81 cents and 36 cents open market for 28 hogs, which he took to market this week.
Goodwin Brothers showed up again in the steer sale on Thursday, buying the 1,260-pound Angus crossbred champion raised by Katie Ward, a 12-year-old member of the Ropers and Wranglers 4-H. Her homebred commanded $2.80 a pound for a total of $3,528.
The daughter of David and Tiffany Ward of Brooksville, her third year in the show ring, calculated she had $1,400 invested in her project. Oh, yes, she had to pay her parents for the calf she took on last September. "It's a business and they need to learn responsibility," said Tiffany Ward.
Officials were a little skeptical at that point that the sale would go well. They'd hope for a higher price for the purple banner winner, normally the sale leader.
But they were buoyed when the reserve champion, a 1,250-pound Maine-Angus cross raised by 17-year-old Victoria Cannon of the Brooksville Senior FFA, went on a bid of $3.10 a pound. Buyer Mike Knight of Knight's Farm Fresh Feed of Bushnell, paid out $3,875, and said with a grin, "He's going to eat better because he's been eating my feed."
The sale of 28 finished steers saw six head selling for $3 a pound or more; 13 brought between $2 and $3 a pound. The average stood at $2.39. Market price is averaging about $1.25.
R & R Farms of Spring Hill entered the top buyback bid of 84 cents a pound.
The wow of the sale entered next to last, as champion Katie Ward's 9-year-old brother, Nathan, marched to the ring leading an 1,160-pound Angus cross. Nathan also exhibited the champion carcass steer. Bidding started briskly and remained so until the auctioneer knocked him down for the sale's highest price, a whopping $3.95 a pound for a total of $4,582.
Salem Gharsalli of Tampa made the buy. Although he owns Salem's Gyros & Subs there, he said the steer will be served up at the family's table. "The whole family is here," he motioned to his wife, two young children and other relatives seated in the bidding section.
Why the big buy?
"To support these kids. They work very hard," explained Gharsalli.
Other acts of generosity came forth.
G.G. Hunter State Farm Insurance in Marion County watched as Andy Morgan's 1,130-pound Charolais cross sold for $1.95 a pound. Hunter didn't think that was sufficient for the Hernando County FFAer, so she donated 55 cents a pound to the price to make it $2.50.
"Andy would do anything around the barn," she said. "He helped my son (Blake Hunter) walk his steer."
Hunter wasn't finished with her goodwill. The auctioneer awarded her the 1,195-pound steer shown by Delaney Ahrens, an independent 4-Her, on her offer of $2.10 a pound. Hunter volunteered an additional 40 cents a pound for another round-off at $2.50.
Coastal Engineering of Brooksville bid $1.50 a pound for a Hereford cross weighing in at 1,290. As the offers stalled, Coastal upped its own bid to $2 a pound for the entry by Blake Hunter of Future Cattlemen 4-H.
Ushering in both sales, exhibitors gathered in the ring and sang the national anthem. The youths also presented thank-you baskets to their buyers, most containing, among other items, condiments for those burgers and pulled pork.
Beth Gray can be contacted at
Rockin' Wrecks Saturday —The Demolition Derby!
1 p.m.-midnight Gates/midway open; variety entertainment with Jerry Brown and his monkey pal, Django
1-8 p.m. Baby animal barn
1-9 p.m. Exhibit building open
7 p.m. Demolition derby, rodeo arena (arena gates open 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults; $5 for ages 4-12; and free for ages 3 and younger. Tickets include fair admission)
1:30 p.m. George Marshall (country music)
2 p.m. Shadazi and Jewels of the Desert (belly dancing)
2:30 p.m. Branded Heart
3 p.m. Tyler Road
4 p.m. Victoria K
5 p.m. Matthew Romeo
5:30 p.m. Freedom, gospel music
6 p.m. Kenn E. Grube, "Elvis"
7 p.m. Karaoke contest winners
8 p.m. Rock Music Showcase, featuring Knight Flight, Shades of Twilight and Culbreath
Rockin' Super Sunday
1-8 p.m. Gates/midway open ($15 unlimited ride armband and $1 gate admission)
1-8 p.m. Baby animal barn, variety entertainment with Jerry Brown and his monkey pal, Django
1-8 p.m. Exhibit building open
1 p.m. Daniela
2 p.m. Alabama Blues Brothers
3:30 p.m. Cesar Domico, Magician
4 p.m. Victoria K
5 p.m. Rebel Pride with "surprise guest appearance"