Bailey Allen watered down her 800-something pound black-and-white heifer in the livestock area of the Merced County Spring Fair on Saturday as sister Colleen Allen stood close by to help.
The sisters have been showing chickens, sheep and cattle since they were 9 years old, when they began their journey as 4-H members.
Colleen, 18, and Bailey, 14, both attend Los Banos High School and both have had their fair share of challenges at the fair. But this year Colleen was faced with an experience like no other. Her replacement heifer gave birth to a bull calf in the middle of the fair.
“I didn’t expect it,” Colleen said. “I got a call saying the calves’ two front feet were out, so we rushed over here. About 10 minutes later, she laid on her side and gave about five good pushes and out came the little calf.”
Colleen didn’t have a dairyman or a vet to assist her, but through training she received from her ag classes and guidance from advisers and dairymen, she was able to help pull the hind legs of the calf out and wipe the nose to free the nostrils for air.
“I’ve seen it once before but never my own,” she said.
Luckily, Colleen was still able to show and sell her heifer, but it wasn’t ideal timing.
“Of course I wanted her to be pregnant for the show the next morning,” she said. “I was hoping she would calve after the show, that way she would look her best during the show and place the best that she could.”
The judge said Colleen’s heifer was at a disadvantage because she calved. She made it to the second round of about 15, where she was finally dismissed.
The livestock auction is one event at the fair anticipated by dairymen and ranchers.
It’s where young 4-H and FFA members sell their animals. Oftentimes, 4-Hers can be seen crying once their animals are sold off.
Bailey said they grow attached to their animals and letting go can be hard, especially at such a young age.
The livestock auction goes on for three days, with hundreds of animals being sold for hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars.
Auction organizer Scott Silveira said hundreds of hours go into livestock projects and the payoff can be rewarding.
“It means that we work really hard so that every kid that raised a project is able to walk out of there with a little bit of money in their pockets,” Silveira said.
Colleen, for example, was able to sell her cow and bull calf for $4,900, which she will put toward her college education.
“Our community never ceases to amaze me in the support that they show for our students,” Silveira said.
Sales for the Junior Livestock Auction reached $200,000 more than sales last year. There were more than 400 animals sold over the three days of the auction.