JACKSON — After a week of intense competition, 42 animals and their exhibitors qualified for the 44th annual Dixie National Sale of Junior Champions, Mississippi’s premier youth livestock auction.
Thirteen hogs, 12 lambs, nine goats and eight steers were auctioned off at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds’ Trade Mart. For the first time, the animals were sold by the head instead of by the pound to make it easier to calculate multiple buyers’ bids.
The 2013 sale brought in bids with a preliminary total of $316,914. This figure included about $88,000 for the steers, $72,250 for the hogs, $61,750 for the lambs and $49,500 for the goats. Donors added more than $45,000 to animals in the sale and in scholarship contributions after bidding closed.
Two new sales records were set: the highest price paid for a goat at $15,500 and $25,000 for a steer.
This year the sale hit a major milestone when it passed the $5 million mark in funds raised over the sale’s 44-year history.
“Many people have contributed to this accomplishment,” said Dean Jousan, Mississippi State University Extension Service 4-H livestock specialist. “The committee members, sponsors, buyers, Extension agents and FFA advisors, and families across the state work hard to instill in our youth a sense of pride in being involved in agriculture.
“We rely on an extensive network of supporters to make an event of this size happen. Passing the $5 million mark is a huge compliment to the state’s youth and agriculture industry,” he said.
4-H and FFA participants brought their winning animals into the sale ring before an audience of included family members, business owners, agricultural leaders, mentors and friends.
The buyers’ purpose is to show their support of these future leaders.
“This is a way for the business community to honor the hard work these kids have done,” said Harry Dendy, chair of the Dixie National Sale of Junior Champions promotion committee. “They have a lot of support from their families, but at the end of the day, they’re the ones who walk into the ring. They show, they win and they make the sale.”
Volunteers started the Dixie National Junior Sale of Champions in 1970 to encourage youth to continue investing their time and effort into livestock projects.
“Raising livestock, keeping detailed records and traveling to competitions, in addition to school work, family commitments, jobs and other extracurricular activities, requires serious dedication from the youth and their families,” said Paula Threadgill, associate Extension director. “It’s more than simply taking care of an animal; it’s time management, organization, responsibility, patience, determination and just plain hard work.”
Eleven-year-old twins Jillian and James Roberts of Belzoni qualified for the sale for the first time with their Mississippi-bred Chester hog, Bossy Bessie, named after their great-aunt.
“Aunt Bessie is a force to be reckoned with, and so is that hog,” said Crystal Roberts, the twins’ mother.
The twins spend three hours a day taking care of their animals.
“We get up at 6 o’clock in the morning and feed them before we go to school,” said Jillian. “We walk them in the afternoon and feed them at night.”
Sharing responsibility for Bossy Bessie has not been a problem, and they have taken turns showing her.
“Jillian was showing the pig, and when we found out she was going to be in the sale I jumped out of the bleachers,” James said. “Aunt Bessie was there with us, and she loves it that Bossy Bessie won.”
Since 1993, the Dixie National Sale of Junior Champions promotion committee has also raised funds for scholarships based on academic achievement and livestock showmanship. To date, they have awarded 467 scholarships totaling $551,200.
Donors contributed funds for 25 academic scholarships worth $1,500 each awarded to outstanding seniors; five premier exhibitor scholarships worth $2,000 each given to top beef, dairy, swine, lamb and goat competitors; and three supreme exhibitor scholarships worth $1,500 each for beef, dairy cattle, and dairy goat exhibitors.