When you walk through the livestock barns at the Wisconsin Valley Fair, you only see a small portion of what these kids have done to get their animals ready for the show and sale. Buying the animal alone is costly - not to mention the feed, bedding, medical care, show supplies, and more.
In Marathon County, there's a special program that pairs up kids and cows - even if they don't live on the farm or maybe have the means to buy an animal. It's the Marathon Co. Heifer Project.
One of the Dairy Barn Superintendents, John Slipek, explains how it all works. He say to qualify the exhibitor must first be enrolled in 4-H or FFA. Then in the Fall, the exhibitor can apply for the calf. From there the committee looks for famers or business sponsors who would be willing to foot the initial bill for the calf.
Once they find all the sponsors, the exhibitor is then paired up with a calf. He or she will show the calf for two years at the Wisconsin Valley Fair then the heifer will be run through the annual heifer sale.
Slipek says, "The money the student gets for participating in the program is used to help pay the sponsor for putting the money upfront to buy the calf, for feed, costs to breed the animal, medical bills, expenses for showing the animal."
He stresses that the final sale is not total profit.
Slipek says, "The program is not set up to make money, but to get the kids involved in the dairy industry in Marathon County."
Area buyers are invited to the annual sale; however, the kids have the chance to buy the heifer back and potentially start a herd of their own.
The 34th Annual Heifer Sale will be held Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Multi-purpose building. This year Slipek says 16 animal are expected to go through the ring. Out of those 16, he's expecting 12 to 13 exhibitors to buy back their animal. As for the others, they will have new owners.
To become a 4-H member, click on the link above.