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Sale reveals the next generation of champions
JACKSON -- The Dixie National Sale of Junior Champions is more than a place to highlight the state’s top market animals; it is a place to meet the next generation of champion youth.
Parents Connie and Allen Keene of Hattiesburg took part in livestock projects when they were teen-agers. Now, they are watching their children -- Alexandra Pittman, 12, and Carson Keene, 5 -- follow in their footsteps and beyond.
“We didn’t win much growing up, but we did earn a little scholarship money, just enough reward for all the hard work,” Allen Keene said. “We made lifelong friends that we still see at shows where our kids are now competing.”
On Feb. 11, Keene watched his step-daughter walk two of her animals -- a hog and a goat -- through the prestigious sale ring. Pittman qualified for the sale with the grand champion hog, which was also the champion Hampshire hog. She also had the Mississippi bred grand champion goat, which was the reserve champion light heavyweight goat.
“I’ve been showing pigs since I was 5, but this is my first year with goats,” said Pittman, a seventh-grader at Presbyterian Christian School in Hattiesburg. “Showing is a lot of fun, and I really like the people we meet. We all help each other.”
In addition to animal nutrition and care, Pittman said she’s learned how to lose and how to win with grace.
“Last year, I got third place a lot. This year, I was first in hog showmanship for 12-year-olds,” she said. “Showmanship is where you help the judge see your animal, but it’s really all about us.”
Pittman said she has enjoyed watching her younger brother start his livestock career this year.
Dean Jousan, Mississippi State University Extension 4-H livestock specialist, said these projects are often family efforts.
“The kids have to be committed to the projects, but they really need their parents’ support, too,” Jousan said. “Not only will the parents know where their children are when they are involved in livestock projects, but the kids also know where their parents are. In these busy times, that’s just as important.”
2010 marked the 41st year charitable buyers have stepped forward at the Dixie National Sale of Junior Champions to bid on market animals raised by 4-H and FFA members from across the state. Market animals must earn their way to the sale by being named champion or reserve champion in their breed categories or weight divisions.
“In just a couple of hours, buyers donated more than a quarter of a million dollars at this year’s sale,” Jousan said. “The quality of the character of these youth inspires buyers to be generous every year, even when the economic outlook is not very strong.”
This year, 13 hogs, 13 lambs, eight goats and eight steers were auctioned off at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds. In addition to the market animals, donors contributed money to support 25 scholarships worth $1,200 each, five premier exhibitor scholarships worth $1,500 each and three supreme exhibitor scholarships worth $1,000 each.
The 2010 sale brought in bids totaling $275,201 for 42 market animals. The highest per-pound bids were $14 for a steer ($17,920), $49 for a lamb ($7,399) and $41 for a hog ($11,234). A new sale record was set for the highest price paid per pound for a goat of $81. The 33 scholarships totaled $40,500.