ALEXANDRIA, Ind. — Local 4-H'ers and their animals bid each other goodbye forever Thursday at the livestock auction.
One by one, owners and breeders led their animals to the show arena at the Madison County 4-H Fair for the auction, marking the last few hours they had together. All this week, they've been showing their cattle, sheep and hogs at the fair, culminating months of hard work to raise and train their four-legged companions.
Saying good-bye wasn't easy.
They knew it was coming. Some cried. But most of them realized it's just part of the process.
"If you don't feel a loss, you haven't been caring for the animal long enough," said Fair Queen Stephanie Morris, 17, of Madison-Grant High School.
Morris brought her hog Cash and ram Fuzzy to the fair. To her surprise, Fuzzy won reserve grand champion and is likely to fetch a good price. According to Morris' father Steve, it's good to get about a dollar a pound for sheep, and Fuzzy weighs 136 pounds.
"It was a big surprise. I usually don't expect much from anything but the pigs," Morris said. "I like bringing [sheep] to shows, but I don't like the work that goes into them."
After raising and showing pigs in competitions for more than nine years, Morris favors hogs. She doesn't get attached to her sheep. Cash, a 300-pound pig Morris calls her "baby," won reserve champion for middleweight crossbreeds.
"Pigs just have a lot more personality than sheep," said Morris. "I've worked with him all summer and been showing him every weekend."
Morris has been raising livestock for years and it's in her family, so she's used to getting attached, saying goodbye, then repeating the cycle.
It's the same approach Lapel junior Garrett Lowes takes. This year, Lowes brought his Angus steer Big Al to the fair and won reserve grand champion. The steer was born in March 2012 and was named after owner Allen Carr.
Lowes said he enjoyed reaping the benefits of months of work with Big Al on Thursday. Every day this summer, Lowes woke up early, walked the steer, fed him, brushed him and walked him again at night. Lowes said he was very proud to get a trophy and a ribbon.
"It's a full-time job. You can't skip a day, even if you don't feel like it. It's one of those things that, if you're not dedicated, your livestock won't do well," he said.
Lowes simply tried to enjoy the time with his bovine friend while he had it. They ended on a win, and that's all he wanted.
"I'm getting older and more mature, and I'm learning to handle it like an adult. You get attached, but that's just part of it. You eventually need to let them go. And we had a good year," Lowes said. "I'll probably lead him out to the truck, pet him and tell him 'bye.' And that's that."
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