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The Hardest Day: Students say goodbye at the Northwest Junior Livestock Show

rom left to right: Diane Stratton,Champion Drive 4H Leader; Chance Lee, 5 from Quincy, Wash.; Alex McGee, 14, from Lakeridge Middle School with his lamb named after his friend sitting next to him, John; John Wiles, 14, also from Lakeridge Middle School, with his lamb named after his friend, Alex; wait to show their lams in the auction ring at the Junior Livestock Show at the Washington State Spring Fair on April 19, 2015. Students in the FFA and 4H programs participate in the auction of livestock including steers, lambs and hogs in the Northwest Junior Livestock Show at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup, Wash. on April 19, 2015. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)
April 28, 2015
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Puyallup, WA – Many consumers give little thought when picking up a piece of meat at the grocery store. Wrapped in cellophane it has no smell, no blood, no life. Vegans and vegetarians will tell you not to eat it because it’s unhealthy and harmful to animals. Carnivores will tell you should eat it for sustenance and flavor.

But no one knows what truly goes into the packaging like students in the 4H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) who participate in the annual Northwest Junior Livestock show held this year on April 15-19th during the Washington State Spring Fair. Raising their animals since they were little piglets, lambs and calves, students from across the state spent 3 – 6 months learning lessons in leadership and animal husbandry. Over the weekend they showcase their projects for each animal’s first, and final, time and become aware of the value of their meat from an emotional and financial standpoint.

This year 150 FFA and 4H students sold 25 lambs, 158 hogs and 15 steer earning $195,000 in sales. All proceeds went to the students.

United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service

United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service

Originally started 70 years ago at the Auburn stockyards, the Northwest Junior Livestock Show moved to the Washington State Fairgrounds in Puyallup in 1990. It is a “terminal” show, meaning that animals entered, don’t come back out. Instead they head to the meat packing house.

Ellen Schmitz, Secretary and Treasurer of the Northwest Junior Livestock Show says the show is terminal to ensure the animals don’t end up being shown by another student at another fair who didn’t actually raise it.

Initially each student buys their animal from a breeder known for good quality livestock. The students then select, raise and train their animal for 3-6 months. “It’s their work,” says Schmitz. “You have to learn to work with your animal and the animal learns to work with you.”

The Washington state FFA program had 7,334 student members in the 2013-2014 school year.

Laying on his pigs "Thunder" (left) and "Lightning" Blake Neuman, 10, from Enumclaw, Wash., reads a note that a sponsor was donating money towards his project. Neuman is a 4H student from Westwood Elementary School. This is his second year raising pigs in the 4H program. His parents are farmers raising cows, chickens and goats and have a barn for this pigs. When he gets older he wants to be rancher. He wants to use the money he makes from selling Thunder and Lightning for his first rifle and for college. Lightning weighs 254 pounds. Neuman weighs 73. Students in the FFA and 4H programs participate in the auction of livestock including steers, lambs and hogs in the Northwest Junior Livestock Show at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup, Wash. on April 19, 2015. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

Laying on his pigs “Thunder” (left) and “Lightning” Blake Neuman, 10, from Enumclaw, Wash., reads a note that a sponsor was donating money towards his project. Neuman is a 4H student from Westwood Elementary School. This is his second year raising pigs in the 4H program. His parents are farmers raising cows, chickens and goats and have a barn for this pigs. When he gets older he wants to be rancher. He wants to use the money he makes from selling Thunder and Lightning for his first rifle and for college. Lightning weighs 254 pounds. Neuman weighs 73. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

 

IMAGE: FFA student Austin Speck, 17, from Pe Ell, Wash. guides his steer, Lazy 5 California Chrome, out of the auction ring during the final day of the Northwest Junior Livestock Show at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup, Wash. on April 19, 2015. Speck won his class for heifers born Jan. 1 - Feb. 29, 2014. He has raised Lazy 5 since the steer was five months old. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

FFA student Austin Speck, 17, from Pe Ell, Wash. guides his steer, Lazy 5 California Chrome, out of the auction ring during the final day of the Northwest Junior Livestock Show at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup, Wash. on April 19, 2015. Speck won his class for heifers born Jan. 1 – Feb. 29, 2014. He has raised Lazy 5 since the steer was five months old. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

 

IMAGE: Students in the FFA and 4H programs say goodbye to their lambs who they just auctioned off and out in the trailer taking them to a slaughterhouse. Students participate in the auction of livestock including steers, lambs and hogs in the Northwest Junior Livestock Show at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup, Wash. on April 19, 2015. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

Students in the FFA and 4H programs say goodbye to their lambs who they just auctioned off and put in the trailer taking them to a slaughterhouse. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

 

IMAGE: Cody Barthels, 13, from Bear Creek School in Redmond loads his lamb named "Juan" onto the trailer that will take him to slaughter. Barthels has been raising him for around 3 1/2 months. He says "I've always wanted to raise animals. I just love animals a lot. Now I know a lot about sheep." Barthells says he wants to be a farmer someday. Students in the FFA and 4H programs participate in the auction of livestock including steers, lambs and hogs in the Northwest Junior Livestock Show at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup, Wash. on April 19, 2015. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

Cody Barthels, 13, from Bear Creek School in Redmond loads his lamb named “Juan” onto the trailer that will take him to slaughter. Barthels has been raising him for around 3 1/2 months. He says “I’ve always wanted to raise animals. I just love animals a lot. Now I know a lot about sheep.” Barthells says he wants to be a farmer someday. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

 

IMAGE: A student leads her lamb to the trailer that will head to the meat processing plant after the livestock auction at the Northwest Junior Livestock Show at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup, Wash. on April 19, 2015. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

A student leads her lamb to the trailer that will head to the meat processing plant after the livestock auction at the Northwest Junior Livestock Show at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup, Wash. on April 19, 2015. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

 

IMAGE: Alie Kale, 19, a graduate from Tahoma High School, spends her final moments with Stocky, a 13 month old steer, in his stall on auction day. When she first got him in April 2014 he was one month old and weighed 300-400 pounds. Now he is 1,200 pounds. As an FFA student Kale worked with Stocky for 2 -3 hours a day for about 5 months including baths and walks. Now she wants to be a farmer. "I'd never touched a cow before," she said. "I was completely in love. So now I'd really like to have a cow and a pig farm." She showed him at the Washington State Fair last fall and sold him to student, Chase Smith who showed him this time around. About sending him to slaughter Kale said "They always know. He knows." "He's sad. You can see it in his eyes." "Everyone underestimates cows. They're like big, powerful dogs. If you train them they're really great animals to have." she says.

Alie Kale, 19, a graduate from Tahoma High School, spends her final moments with Stocky, a 13 month old steer, in his stall on auction day. When she first got him from breeder Jim Roxstrom in April 2014 he was one month old and weighed 300-400 pounds. Now he is 1,200 pounds. As an FFA student Kale worked with Stocky for 2 -3 hours a day for about 5 months including baths and walks. Now she wants to be a farmer. “I’d never touched a cow before,” she said. “I was completely in love. So now I’d really like to have a cow and a pig farm.” She showed him at the Washington State Fair last fall and sold him to student, Chase Smith, who showed him this time around. Regarding sending him to slaughter Kale said “They always know. He knows. He’s sad. You can see it in his eyes. Everyone underestimates cows. They’re like big, powerful dogs. If you train them they’re really great animals to have,” she says. (© Karen Ducey Photography)

 

IMAGE: FFA student Kasey Asplund, 18, from Milton, Wash. hands over her cow, Charley, to a trucker who will take him to a meat processor. "He’s my best friend.” she said. Charley would come running in from the field when she called his name. When she got him in November (2014) his name was Kevin and was a year old. Students in the FFA and 4H programs participate in the auction of livestock including steers, lambs and hogs in the Northwest Junior Livestock Show at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup, Wash. on April 19, 2015. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

FFA student Kasey Asplund, 18 from Milton, Wash. hands over her cow, Charley, to a trucker who will take him to a meat processor. “He’s my best friend.” she said. Charley would come running in from the field when she called his name. When she got him in November 2014 his name was Kevin and was a year old. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

 

IMAGE: Thomas Asplund, 12, from Milton, Wash. peers through metal grates of a trailer headed to slaughterhouse at his sister's red angus cow that she raised for the Northwest Junior Livestock Show at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup, Wash. Asplund plans on joining the FFA but says he has no desire to be a farmer. He helped his sister a lot raising the cow." Students in the FFA and 4H programs participate in the auction of livestock including steers, lambs and hogs in the Northwest Junior Livestock Show at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup, Wash. on April 19, 2015. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

Thomas Asplund, 12, from Milton, Wash. peers through metal grates of a trailer headed to slaughterhouse at his sister’s red angus cow that she raised for the Northwest Junior Livestock Show at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup, Wash. Asplund plans on joining the FFA but says he has no desire to be a farmer. He helped his sister a lot raising the cow.” (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

 

IMAGE: Robert Sathre , 16, from Buckley, Wash. says goodbye to his cow, Snowflake, after she was loaded onto a trailer that will take her to a slaughterhouse. Sathre is a student at White River High School in the FFA program. Students in the FFA and 4H programs participate in the auction of livestock including steers, lambs and hogs in the Northwest Junior Livestock Show at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup, Wash. on April 19, 2015. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

Robert Sathre , 16, from Buckley, Wash. says goodbye to his cow, Snowflake, after she was loaded onto a trailer that will take her to a slaughterhouse. Sathre is a student at White River High School in the FFA program. Students in the FFA and 4H programs participate in the auction of livestock including steers, lambs and hogs in the Northwest Junior Livestock Show at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup, Wash. on April 19, 2015. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

 

IMAGE: Cows recently auctioned off at the Washington State Spring fair await their fate after being loaded onto a trailer that will take them to a slaughterhouse. Hundreds of students in the FFA and 4H programs show livestock they raisedincluding steers, lambs and hogs at the Northwest Junior Livestock Show at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup, Wash. on April 19, 2015. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

Cows recently auctioned off at the Washington State Spring fair await their fate after being loaded onto a trailer that will take them to a slaughterhouse. (photo © Karen Ducey Photography)

 

 

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