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Young farmers show off their work at Junior Livestock Auction

1,405-pound Grand Champion beef winner at the 2023 Junior Livestock auction at the Butler Farm Show
Mason Henry shows off the 1,405-pound Grand Champion beef winner at the 2023 Junior Livestock auction at the Butler Farm Show on Thursday, Aug. 10. Steven Dalton/Special to the Eagle

CONNOQUENESSING TWP — The atmosphere inside tent No. 16 was hot, in more ways than one. Nearly every seat in the house was filled for the 45th annual Junior Livestock Auction, one of the centerpiece events of the Butler Farm Show.

For Butler County’s junior farmers, Thursday night’s auction was a reflection of their skill and dedication to their craft, measured in dollars and cents per pound.

Youths show their animals at the Junior Livestock Auction at the Butler Farm Show
Youths show their animals at the Junior Livestock Auction at the Butler Farm Show on Thursday evening. Steven Dalton/Special to the Eagle

More than one of the junior farmers described the process of raising livestock and bringing them to auction as a process of dedication, hard work and commitment.

“You have to be able to sacrifice a lot to bring your animals to the farm show,” said Katelyn Kerr. “A lot of it is just making sure they’re exercised and ready for the show.”

Along with a host of other livestock, Katelyn brought the “County Bred Champion” cattle, which weighed in at 1,420 pounds. It ultimately sold for $3.75 a pound to Hampton Mechanical in Gibsonia.

Youths show their animals at the Junior Livestock Auction at the Butler Farm Show
Youths show their animals at the Junior Livestock Auction at the Butler Farm Show on Thursday evening. Steven Dalton/Special to the Eagle

For the second year in a row, the brother-and-sister combo of Mason and Ryleigh Henry were the team to beat at the auction. They brought the Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion cattle, respectively, along with other top-ranked livestock.

Although they are separately credited with their own livestock on the program, Ryleigh acknowledged that raising the animals was a team effort.

“At home, it’s a whole lot of teamwork: It’s trading off who has to feed early in the morning, who’s rinsing today, who has to brush the cows today,” Ryleigh said. “I wouldn’t be able to do it all without my family and certainly not without my brother.”

Most of the frequent buyers at Thursday night’s auction — such as Lola Energy, Amerikohl Aggregates, JK Hydraulics, and Mike Kelly Automotive — had no real use for any of the livestock they purchased. Some donated their purchases back to the local 4-H Club, or to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, among other options.

“They’re pretty much just supporting the kids,” said Amy Metrick of the Butler County 4-H Club.

There was a notable category absence from this year’s program. Just as last year, no poultry went up for bid at this year’s auction due to the ongoing avian flu epidemic.

The first three livestock of the day were charity animals whose proceeds went straight to local charities — namely, the OMSLife Foundation, the Butler County Veterans in Need Fund, and the Butler Golden Tornado’s Kids’ Weekend Backpack Program.

The biggest surprise of the day was when Ben Lyons’ 254-pound swine pulled in $31 per pound. This was especially notable because the pig in question came in sixth in its class, while the Grand Champion swine — raised by Morgan Teets — brought in $15.50 per pound.

The Slear family got to take home the hog after a protracted bidding war with Doug Thomas from Thomas Construction.

Not surprisingly, Ben was over the moon with the result. Earlier that night, he brought another hog before the crowd, and it went for $10.50 per pound.

“When it got to $10 a pound, I was ready to drop down dead there, but they kept on bidding it up,” Ben said. “I still don’t know what to say. I’m still in shock, really. That was more than I ever thought I’d make. I was coming here expecting to make five, so to get $31 a pound was absolutely phenomenal.”

Youths show their animals at the Junior Livestock Auction at the Butler Farm Show
Youths show their animals at the Junior Livestock Auction at the Butler Farm Show on Thursday evening. Steven Dalton/Special to the Eagle

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