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Daily Pilot

Farming at the OC Fair: Students learn joy, sadness of raising livestock

Orange County youths spent months caring for the animals, which were auctioned off on Saturday.

By Jill Cowan

5:06 PM PDT, July 19, 2014

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For many of the students participating in the Junior Livestock Auction at the OC Fair, the auctions Saturday are a bittersweet moment, bringing the sadness of saying goodbye with the prospect of having their months of work rewarded.

Below is a closer look at four of the youth — who represent the local 4-H and FFA organizations that are supported by the annual auction — and the animals they've taken care of.

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Student: Alyssa Hosmer, 16

La Habra High School Future Farmers of America

Animal: Cora, a Blue Butt pig

"I had a Hampshire my first year and I was wanting to get another one, but she had a really big butt," Alyssa said, as a classmate sprayed off Cora and two other pigs. "That's good for marketing — so I saw her butt and I knew, 'Oh, I gotta have her.' "

She met Cora about four months ago, when she was a two-month-old piglet, just about 2 feet long.

Alyssa said she named her now 242-pound pig because she loves Greek mythology, and Cora is a nickname for Persephone, the daughter of the goddess of the harvest and herself, the queen of the underworld.

"Her attitude went with the name," she said.

Alyssa said she gets sad when she thinks about sending Cora to market.

She said she sent letters in an effort to find a private buyer before the Fair.

"The girls, they kind of get a second chance to go be used for reproduction," Alyssa said with a sigh. "That's why I tried to get a girl."

But Cora was still headed for auction, and Alyssa hoped to fetch at least $300, an average price for a pig like Cora, which is about double her bill amount. Next year, the aspiring veterinarian plans to raise another pig, as well as a steer.

Still, she said, "It doesn't hit me until they're about to sell her."

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Students: Adam Uzueta, 17 and Arianda Lopez-Villegas, 16

Covina High School Future Farmers of America

Animal: Sally, a white-crested broiler hen

Adam and Arianda spoke over the roar of a long tube blow-dryer, Sally's feathers ruffling and shifting.

"We've been blow-drying for about two hours," Adam said. "They come from the washing station, then we dry them."

Adam said it was his second year in the program.

"I've done lambs, taken care of a goat — broilers," he said.

Arianda, who was in her third year, said she hoped to someday become an agriculture teacher.

Her pair of chickens had already been sold to a private buyer for about $100. Her pig, too, had already been sold.

"I just found out yesterday, so I'm sad today," she said.

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Student: Sydnee Ragland, 13

Trabuco Trailblazers 4-H Club

Animal: Ash, a market turkey

"Turducken is my brother's turkey," Sydnee said. "The blue ribbon just means they're grade A and can go to auction."

While Ash went into weigh-in about a week ago at about 25.9 pounds, now he's probably about 26 pounds, Sydnee said.

"I've had him since he was four days old, now he's four months," she said.

Sydnee paused to address a man who asked what was wrong with the white bird, sitting on a blanket outside his cage in the airy walkway lined with cooing and gobbling poultry.

"He's taking a nap," she said.

Sydnee continued that Ash could fetch anywhere from $50 to $1,500 at auction. She planned to use the money into buying a calf, or perhaps a lamb or goat.

She said she wasn't sad to see Ash off.

"Because I knew he had to go to auction to get slaughtered," she said. "He'll keep growing until his breast gets so big that he tips over or his legs break."

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Student: Katie Rosenow, 9

Orange Acres Backbreakers 4-H Club

Animal: Gliss, a broad-breasted white turkey

Katie waddled over the bird, patting its feathers and struggling to corral it down the hall.

"I just made it up in my mind," she said of the name Gliss. "Like a wind blowing like – Gliiiisss."

Katie said the approximately 25.5-pound animal eats only organic feed.

"She likes to eat tomatoes off my dad's bushes," Katie said. "She's going to be chewy."

The turkey, Katie said, lived in her family's big backyard, with 15 chickens and three other turkeys, though it was the first year the rising fourth-grader could participate in the program.

"The chickens learn to stay away from them," she said. "We had four turkeys, two died."

One, she said, her family called "Curly-Toed Gravy," for her severe crows feet.

"We took her to the butcher four days ago," Katie said. "I got a new bunny because I was crying. My mom was like, 'You want the bunny?' and I'm like, 'Yes.' "