Willacy auction helps youths pay for livestock projects

RAYMONDVILLE — For ranchers such as Mitch Thomas, it all starts at the Willacy County Livestock Show & Fair.

For years, Thomas has overseen the quality of the show’s cattle.

A fifth-generation rancher, his children have taken their family’s championship lines of Charolais steers and heifers to competitions across the country, taking home top trophies.

Across the county, he and other ranchers breed some of the finest cattle on the market.

“There are families like us dedicated to it,” Thomas said. “Willacy County’s known for the quality of stuff. It’s as good as ever before.”

Today, the show’s auction, known as the premium sale, is expected to pay children top dollar for their prized livestock.

Most livestock shows limit their sales to their top winners.

But the Willacy County Livestock Show pays every child to help offset the cost of projects, Thomas said.

“Every kid gets to go through the auction,” he said. “It gives every kid the opportunity to get something for their project.”

That means big bucks.

“Last year, every kid got at least $500 to offset project costs,” Thomas said.

For 17 years, Thomas has served as chairman of the premium sale he co-founded.

And this year, he is counting on the show’s biggest auction.

Earlier this week, about 175 children showed 253 projects.

“We have quite a bit more exhibitors than we’ve had in the past so we’re super-excited about that,” Alison Busse Savage, the show’s president, said. “That means you’re healthy.”

Like Thomas, she credits the county’s FFA and 4-H clubs with leading more children to raise livestock for the show.

“It shows we have strong programs,” she said. “It means the livestock show is successful and we’re doing a good thing for kids. It means our FFA program is a good thing for kids.”

For Busse Savage, the show is a family tradition.

For years, her father Gary Busse served on the show’s board of directors.

By the time she was 9, she was showing cattle.

“It’s a family thing every time mom and dad are teaching and learning with their kids,” she said. “The responsibility, character and hard work, they can’t learn in a classroom. We have great kids in Willacy County and we’re proud to showcase them.”

Today’s livestock show includes

9 a.m. — 4-H and FFA livestock judging contest

10 a.m. — Ranch rodeo

5 p.m. — Buyers’ reception

6 p.m. — Premium sale

9 p.m. — Live music features Peyote Hill