Animals draw top dollar at sale

She might be small of stature, but Gabriella Brown isn't short on confidence.

Friday morning, as she was getting dressed and preparing to show her steer, a Maine Angus cross named Moon, the 10-year-old Maybell resident told her mother, Sheli Steele, "This is the face of a grand champion."

"Gee, you're kind of cocky," Steele told her.

"I'm going to win that purple ribbon," Brown said.

And she did, making her the first grand champion in the Steele family. Neither her father, Bret Steele, nor any of his siblings ever won a grand champion ribbon when they started showing steers 32 years ago.

It was only the second year Brown has shown a steer at the fair.

"I think she has a great sense of accomplishment," Sheli Steele said.

Brown led off the 2004 Moffat County Junior Livestock Sale Saturday night. Before a packed house at the fairgrounds barn, Brown's 1,331-pound steer fetched a winning bid of $5.10 a pound for a total sale price of $6,788.

After paying a sale commission to the Moffat County 4-H Foundation and paying off what she owes her parents for feed, she'll put the rest into a college savings account.

When Brown went to thank her buyer, V.W. "Lop" Behrman, she fell to the ground sobbing. She had become quite attached to her steer and couldn't bear to let it go. Behrman asked if she wanted to keep the animal, but Brown's mom said it was part of the lesson of learning the cow business.

Behrman said he has bought a few grand champions and reserve champions over the years -- mainly because they belonged to kids he knew.

"We always try to help out," he said. "Those kids spend a lot of time and money on their animals and some don't even break even.

"One of these years, I'll have to quit, though, or I'll be broke," he joked.

As a general rule, the grand champions usually get the best price, said 4-H Foundation President Frank Kawcak. But that's not always the case. Some buyers will hold out to bid on an animal that belongs to a child of a family they do a lot of business with.

"I think you see that a lot more in a small county," Kawcak said.

Although steers command the biggest price because of their sheer size, Kawcak said buying the grand champion steer has no more cachet than buying the grand champion chicken.

"A grand champion is a grand champion is the way I look at it," he said. "We've got a lot of good kids and lot of good showmanship."

The foundation collects a sales commission for each animal sold at the auction. A small portion of that money is used to administer the sale and the rest is allocated for educational programs.

"We do a very good job and the community really supports this sale," Kawcak said.

Karissa Maneotis, another grand champion, won her first purple ribbon in her fourth year of showing through 4-H. She's a member of the Double Trouble Lamb and Goat Club.

Maneotis brought two lambs and two goats to the fair. "I had a good feeling that at least one of them would do good," she said.

The winner was "Big Red," a Boer and Spanish cross that Steamboat Motors bought for $882. Maneotis plans to save her money.

But it wasn't just grand champions who cashed in. Winning bidders ponied up to buy 120 animals, mostly hogs and steers.

Faith Santistevan, 9, and her 11-year-old sister Ashleigh, made $500 selling their chickens. Ashleigh, who has cerebral palsy and walks with the help of arm braces, did well with the chickens, he mother, JoAnn Santistevan said. "We might try a pig next year," she said.

But Faith may continue raising chicks because they're so cute and fuzzy "and you get to play with them a lot."

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