Fair Animals Go To Market Saturday

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"Inky" the pig named for the blue ink spots that decorate her otherwise pink complexion has spent six months getting ready for the fair.

This Saturday, Inky will be sold to the highest bidder at the Northern Gila County Fair in Pine. Raised by a 4-H student, Inky is a prime example of education meeting expectations.

At a time when most 11-year-old girls are fretting about boys, or clothes, or hanging out with friends, Brei Miller has a 4-H project that translates into a goal and a downright dirty job.

Besides the endless hours Brei spent on the swim team, riding her horse and on schoolwork, the energetic youth spent between seven to 12 hours every week since March working, training, feeding, cleaning and wallowing in the mud with Inky to get her in tip-top shape.

She hopes her prized porker will take the blue ribbon as best of show for her meat and behavior.

Eight youngsters from the Payson, Pine and Strawberry area will be vying for buyers' bucks this Saturday.

Along with Brei, Nate Acord, 16, his sister Emilie, 14, and Patty Goble, 13, are fattening up their pigs for auction day. Justin Henderson, 18, his sister Rose, 16, and Rob Jones, 17, have spent their summer raising a market steer, and Crystal Sprinkle, 14, will bring a lamb to market.

"Inky is very friendly," Miller said.

"My pig is Psycho," Emilie said, adding that the porker was appropriately named. When they first got him, the Acord family tried to make him friendlier by holding him until he stopped squealing, Emilie's mother, Becky, said. The plan had worked on Inky, said Brie's mother, Bobbie, but Inky was only 45 pounds when he came home. Psycho was 75 pounds.

Nate on the other hand takes a more logical approach to the market animal.

"I never name mine," he said, "so I don't get attached to them."

In his three years of showing, Nate and his family have been able to taste his results.

John Wall from Bashas' regularly buys beef, pork and lamb from the auction. Once slaughtered and packaged, Bashas' marks the cuts with 4-H stickers, letting everyone know where the meat came from. Nate was able to go into the meat department and see how his pig went from field to package. The desired result is that the kids learn how to best prepare an animal for consumption, said Wendell Stevens, Payson High School agriculture teacher, FFA advisor and 4-H resource person.

"I exercise (Inky) daily to build muscle. Muscle is meat." Brei said.

A pig can fetch between $200 and $1,000 in profit for a young entrepreneur willing to spend the time and energy a market animal requires. Students have to buy the pig and the feed. Records must be kept and any loans from parents must be repaid.

Parents take on a variety of roles in 4-H and FFA projects. Livestock hauler, hired hand, secretary and banker are just a few of the hats Becky and Bobbie wore this summer.

Will Brei and Inky be ready for the fair? See for yourself.

The action starts Friday when Inky and his pals will be weighed in.

At 2 p.m. the showmanship class will take place and the Grand Champions will be named. The auction gets under way at 11 a.m. Saturday followed by the noontime traditional Buyers' lunch. If you did not buy an animal, you can buy lunch. Buyers eat for free.

Once paid for, the market animals will be hauled to the processor and the meat packaged and delivered back to Payson and Pine, Stevens said.

The amount for processing will be announced at the auction and added to the final cost of the animal. You can bid on animals as a group and divide the processed meat accordingly.

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