By GRACE GADDY
“Seven thousand, I've got SEVEN, ahhhh-iiiiieee got seven! Seven thousand! Seven! — Seven-TWO!”
The voice of Cayuga native and seasoned auctioneer Bret Richards rang out 90-miles-a-minute over the loud speakers Thursday night as high school freshman Haley Barnett coaxed her caramel-colored beauty of a bovine into the auction pen.
Barnett, a member of Cayuga Future Farmers of America, took the title this year for the grand champion steer — for the second year in a row — during the 40th Annual Anderson County Youth Livestock Show.
The annual show kicked off Monday at the Anderson County Youth Livestock Expo Center, and has since been stirring up dust and dollars this week as area youngsters have shown their livestock to further their education — everything from goats to swine to furry market rabbits and fluffy little broilers.
Barnett's grand champion steer ultimately sold for $7,250 on Thursday night and was purchased again by All Star Ford in Palestine, who purchased her steer in 2013 as well. After the auction, Barnett and the steer posed for a picture with Fernando Varela, owner of All Star Ford.
Smiling ear to ear, Barnett told the Herald-Press she was “happy and excited” about winning grand champion steer for the second year, and that she was grateful to All Star Ford for purchasing him. On raising the animal, she said it was a lot of work, but “very much worth it.”
“You have to work with them every day, feed them, water them, and you've just got to work, work, work!”
Barnett raised the steer over the course of a year, from a frolicking little calf to a 1,300-pound beauty.
The daughter of Krystal and Andy Magee of Cayuga and granddaughter of Toby and Linda Barnett of Montalba and Charlie and Barbara Wright of Cayuga, Barnett is a freshman at Cayuga High School and a die-hard Aggie fan.
She said she plans to use the money she made toward her scholarship fund, hoping to one day work with agriculture — perhaps as a county extension agent.
“She wants to go to A&M,” her mother said. “That's what she's using it for. She's saving her money for that.”
In fact, Barnett said she plans to keep showing steers and already has some lined up for next year — “got them about a month ago,” her mother noted.
All Star Ford dealer Fernando Varela said he bought the grand champion steer to support the students in the community.
“We just like to invest the money back into the community for the people that support the dealership and our business; we like to give something back,” Varela said. “We think it's good for education and for the kids that spend all the time raising the animals and getting ready for the show. We like to encourage them to do that and continue their education.”
Each year, the show brings in thousands of dollars to help local students, while marking the end of another year of hard work for hundreds of exhibitors, parents, 4-H leaders, FFA teachers and volunteers.
Other grand champions that sold are as follows:
• Grand champion rabbit — Neches FFA member Ashleigh Wilbanks, purchased by MKS Services for $850.
• Grand champion broiler — Westwood FFA Alyssa Barnett, purchased by Bodi Services LLC for $1,100.
• Grand champion goat — Cayuga 4-H member Shelby Swinnea, purchased by Walmart for $2,000.
• Grand champion lamb — Cayuga 4-H member Shelby Swinnea, purchased by Anadarko Petroleum for $1,600.
• Grand champion swine — Neches FFA member Kelsee Wade, purchased by Wade apartments for $4,250.
• Grand champion jr. commercial heifers — HBC 4-H member Jacy Rogers, purchased by Ed Armour for $5,000.
• Grand champion sr. commercial heifers — Slocum FFA member Kelsey Kellum, purchased by Cold Creek Construction for $10,600.