Money talks at the Fort Worth Stock Show, and you just might hear it bellowing, squealing, cheering or laughing this Saturday morning around the West Arena auction ring.
The Junior Sale of Champions – auctioning about 300 of the Texas FFA and 4-H junior show exhibitors’ meat-market steers, barrow hogs, wether lambs and wether goats – will begin at 9 a.m. in that arena, at the Richardson-Bass Building’s west end, in Will Rogers Memorial Center.
Despite current economic uncertainties spawned by slumping stock, export, oil and gas and some cattle and farm crop markets, informed sources are forecasting the return of what has become perennial boisterous bidding far beyond all real market realities ringing out for meat-market critters in what will be a standing-room-only West Arena, seating for 642.
“It’s going to be an outstanding sale,” forecast Blair Norman, 2016-2017 chairman of the Fort Worth Stock Show Syndicate, a 140-member nonprofit founded in 1980 to boost the junior auction bids.
It’s the perennial leading group in that endeavor. Through last year, Syndicate members, sponsors and numerous additional donors have handed out more than $45 million in winning bids to the youth for their animals reaching the sale.
Last year’s grand champion steer, a 1,344-pound crossbred, brought $240,000. In slaughter fed-cattle market values, that animal would likely be worth around $1,800-$1,900.
Last year’s reserve grand champ went for $150,000, bought by the Women’s Steering Business Group of Fort Worth, one of at least six Stock Show junior auction bid-boosting organizations. The seller was one of the many girls among the junior exhibitors.
“It’s fun,” said Becky Renfro Borbolla, Womens’ Steering Business founder/leader and vice president of Fort Worth-based Renfro Foods. “Our mission is to develop future female business leaders.”
Renfro predicts “a lot of money in that arena” for this year’s junior auction. Women’s Steering’s 126 members for the 2015 auction paid a total of $210,000 for eight steers shown by 4-H and FFA girls.
At least eight local organizations, including Women’s Steering and the perennial top-buying Syndicate, have been pumping the annual auction bids.
Outside the auction and for more than 50 years, the Stock Show’s business-supported Agricultural Development Fund has boosted take-home income with show prize premiums for winners plus sale non-auction price add-ons for junior exhibitors’ Stock Show livestock that are required to be sold here. For example, all show-entered barrow hogs, whether winners or not, must sell due to state animal health regulations. Many other Junior Show animals go to other shows or home — with the exhibitors.
“The grand champion bidding gets the heart going,” said Don Weeks, a Syndicate chairman emeritus, being one of the Syndicate co-founders and still bidding at the auction.
“We will be there, for sure,” said Gary Ray, a Tallest Hog at the Trough Committee co-founder in 2009, a 10-member organization that has paid out about $940,000 for winning barrow hogs in the auction since debuting at the 2009 Stock Show.
Last year’s grand champion barrow sold for $55,000.
And there’s always the chance that a surprise newcomer or two will raise a hand to bid, upping the ante, against the longstanding groups.
“We welcome the competition,” Norman said, noting that all bidding boosts, from whatever sources, augment the Syndicate’s mission to boost return on investment and labor by the children for their Stock Show livestock projects.
One of the other organizations saw a need for more bidding competition 16 years ago.
“I started Ladies on the Lamb 16 years ago because I recognized, at the time, that there was no special interest group for the lambs,” said Rebecca Clegg Emery, who said the group will be back this year for more lambs.
“The kids who raise and show lambs work just as hard as the kids who raise steers and other livestock, and deserve to be rewarded for their efforts,” Emery said.
Last year’s grand champion wether lamb went for $40,000. The Ladies on the Lamb combined to pay $30,000 for the reserve grand champ.
Other bid-pumping groups have featured the U Ol’ Goat Committee/Fort Worth Businessmen combo of bidders, aiming for the winning wether goats. Last year’s grand champ meat goat went for $35,000.
Still other groups included Fort Worth Business Women and The Shortest Goat at the Bar Committee.
Most if not all of these lively bidders are expected to return for this year’s auction.