Best-looking beasts on two or four legs
At just 14, and with no full-time paying job, at least not one that pays money, Fruita’s Dean VanWinkle has somehow managed to save more than $15,000 for college thanks to an enjoyable — albeit time-consuming — decision to raise livestock for show and sell at the Mesa County Fair.
This year, after winning grand champion in the market steer division, VanWinkle sold his 1,277-pound Charolais to Whitewater Building Materials for $8,000.
Quite literally, VanWinkle found his cash cow.
“I make sure I take very good care of him,” VanWinkle said, standing a few feet away from his winning steer, as it rested near its feed pan of Purina Honor Show Chow.
“He has the good life,” VanWinkle said.
VanWinkle was one of dozens of county 4-H and FFA youth to participate in the Junior Livestock Sale on Saturday at the Mesa County Fairgrounds Show Barn, where the animals brought to the fair were auctioned off.
It’s one of the fair’s last — and largest — events every year.
This year was VanWinkle’s first with the grand champion steer, so he was particularly excited.
“It meant a lot,” VanWinkle said of winning with a less popular breed of cow from his family herd. “Everybody has really gone to Angus.”
VanWinkle bought the calf in October from his parents, who have a herd of Charolais.
He raised the calf himself, getting needed feed from his parents as compensation for working on the family ranch.
“He eats about 22 pounds a day,” VanWinkle said of his winning steer.
For the next two weeks, eating will be all the cow does.
The Whitewater Building representative who purchased the steer asked VanWinkle to take the cow home, where it will eat and relax before being butchered on the ranch.
The winning bidders, many of them local businesses, had the option to either take the animal from the fair or have the family take the animal home for processing at a later date.
In preparation for auction, 4-H and FFA youth of all ages were dressed in their best jeans, belt buckles and button-down shirts to sell what they spent the past year raising.
Bayley Russell, 15, fetched more than $1,000 for her grand champion market wether goat, Freakshow. It was the third consecutive year Russell claimed grand champion honors.
“He’s super-flashy,” Russell said with a smile. Her goat had the right amount of muscle thanks to a daily routine of running alongside the family dog on a track.
Contrary to popular belief, goats are “super picky eaters,” Russell said, adding that goats will chew on just about anything, they just won’t eat it.
However, Freakshow has a few indulgences: Cheetos, the occasional soda, some fruit punch-flavored electrolyte drink and Cheez-It crackers.
Although she’s fond of goats, Russell plans to be back at the fair next year to show goats, a lamb, steers and pigs.
“I’ve learned so much more respect for animals,” Russell said of her years in 4-H and FFA.
Not everyone who sold animals during the Junior Livestock Auction was a grand champion.
Orchard Mesa’s Svea Elisha, 15, was reserve grand champion in the turkey division but still fetched $650 for her bird, Big Al.
Wells Fargo bought the bird, but Elisha will keep him a little while longer.
“We’ll take it home and grow it out for four to eight weeks because it still has 15 to 20 pounds to gain,” Elisha said. “We’ll butcher it, dress it and give it back to the buyer.”
Elisha learned to walk about the same time she learned to pluck chicken feathers.
Birds are part of her family, but she’s thinking with two years left in 4-H that she might show a steer and chickens.
“We’ve been raising meat since I was born,” she said.