Marysville livestock show is a dying breed

MARYSVILLE – Tim McGraw was getting ready for his big day.

Raised by 9-year-old Hayley Bell of Stanwood, Tim McGraw is a 277-pound pig.

Hayley, a 4-H’er, showed the swine Friday in the 44th annual Puget Sound Junior Livestock Show and Sale. Today, Tim McGraw will be auctioned off. Tomorrow, Tim McGraw might be bacon.

“It’s very, very disappointing and sad,” Hayley said.

About 220 youngsters had animals in the event, a lesson in agricultural economics and responsibility.

A larger lesson of economics is at play, too.

This is the last year the junior show will take place in Marysville. Next year it will move to the Skagit County Fairgrounds in Mount Vernon.

By the end of the year, the Marysville Livestock Auction is expected to close its doors.

“It’s going to be a huge loss,” Debbie Bell, Hayley’s grandmother and a cattle farmer, said. “It’s really hard to even be here. It’s so sad.”

Opened in 1961, the Marysville auction house is the largest facility in the state, manager Julie Edmondson said.

She said they used to sell as many as 1,200 head of cattle a week. These days, Edmondson said, that number has dropped to about 250 head a week.

Commercial development in the region has increased property values, putting a squeeze on the business and changing the area’s character.

Rather than cattle farms, the livestock auction soon will have a Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership as a neighbor. The Lakewood Crossing retail development is almost right across the freeway.

Edmondson said the business can’t afford to stay open any longer.

The property has been on the market for the last five years, but it now has a serious buyer, she said.

“It really hasn’t sunk in,” she said. “It’s kind of like the end of an era.”

Losing the Marysville auction house will be a challenge for area farmers, said Mike Hackett, an agricultural economics teacher with Washington State University Extension campus in Everett.

Some might start selling cattle on their own, he said. Others will have to travel long distances to auctions in Everson, near the Canadian border, or Chehalis, south of Olympia.

But cattle are prone to shipping fever, a type of pneumonia brought on by long trailer rides, cattle farmer Bell said.

Plus, the high price of gas will hurt the farm’s bottom line, she said.

Still, she said she hopes coming to the show with her granddaughter would encourage young people to stay in the industry.

The youngsters Friday showed their sheep, pigs and cattle. They came from both 4-H clubs, for children as young as third grade, and Future Farmers of America, a club for high schoolers.

Blue-ribbon winners fetch higher prices at auction. Pigs sell for about $200, while cattle can go for more than $1,000 each.

Buyers typically pay a premium to help the youngsters make a profit, Edmondson said. She said the more the children cry when parting with their animal, the higher the price.

Some, like Kadie MacDicken, 18, of Monroe, will use the proceeds from selling her cow, Waylon, to help pay for college.

Alan Lenz, 18, of Stanwood, said he’ll take the money from his pig, Testi, who won a second-place ribbon, and have fun.

“Summertime’s coming up … road trips, car trips, concerts,” he said.

As for Testi’s summer, well, let’s say he’ll probably have something cooking, too.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or jholtz@heraldnet.com.

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