This year’s recipients of the Junior Livestock Auction Scholarship associated with the San Diego County Fair included Fallbrook 4-H Club member Kyle Murray.
“I’m really glad they chose me,” Murray said. “It helps me a lot with paying for tuition.”
Murray, who graduated from Fallbrook High School in June, will be attending Montana State University and majoring in chemical engineering. He is planning a professional career in petroleum or another energy engineering field.
The Junior Livestock Auction Scholarship works with the San Diego County Fair but is a separate organization with 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. Most of the money from the scholarships is from livestock auction buyers who then donate their animals back to the fair for resale with those proceeds being used for scholarships, while a small amount of the scholarship funding is from direct donations. The total scholarship amount varies from year to year depending on the amount of donations.
“I also appreciate the generous support from whoever decided to donate animals back to the fair,” Murray said.
Applications for the Junior Livestock Auction Scholarship were available online, due in March. The students were required to submit three letters of recommendation and to provide grade transcripts and information about their extracurricular activities.
Murray submitted letters of recommendation from family friend Jonathan Beckett, Fallbrook High School wood shop and metal shop teacher Jacob Bagnell, and Fallbrook High School physics teacher David Thuleen.
Scholastic grades are also a significant criterion in the scoring. Murray’s cumulative weighted GPA was 4.1, and he had an unweighted GPA of 3.72. In addition to his 4-H Club participation, Murray was also on Fallbrook High School’s lacrosse team, and he participated in the Skills USA leadership conference activity for skilled labor. During the Skills USA regional conference, Murray placed second in the oxyacetylene welding competition, and he took sixth place at the state conference.
The application form also included an essay. Murray, who spent four years in Fallbrook 4-H Club, addressed his experience.
Interviews with the students seeking Junior Livestock Auction Scholarship funding were conducted in May. Murray expanded on his essay and addressed his leadership learning experiences in lacrosse and 4-H Club.
“I guess they really liked that,” he said.
The scholarship amount is based on a student’s score. The students are ranked, a bar chart with scores but not names is shown to a selection committee and the committee uses that chart to allocate the scholarship money for each position.
The public release of the scholarship recipients coincides with the fair’s livestock auction, which was July 1 this year. The final requirement for the scholarship is that a student must also enter an animal at the county fair, and the animal must place high enough to qualify for the fair auction. The requirement is not limited to the current year’s auction.
If a large animal receives a blue ribbon, it can be sold at auction. For small animals, only the 4-H Club grand champion, the 4-H Club reserve champion, the National FFA Organization grand champion and the FFA reserve champion go to auction.
Last year, Murray’s chicken pen was given the 4-H Club champion meat pen designation and the supreme reserve champion award. This year, his chicken pen placed sixth in 4-H Club, and his turkey took eighth place in the 4-H Club competition.
Cackle Hatchery, in Lebanon, Missouri, supplied both the chickens and the turkeys Murray raised this year. The 18 Cornish cross chickens he ordered arrived in mid-May, and 15 of those chickens survived until Murray was ready to take his best three to the fair. The chickens were seven weeks old June 26, and they weighed 5.39, 5.61 and 5.72 pounds on the scales at the fair.
Animals which do not go to auction may be sold at a barn sale. Ted Rotunda purchased Murray’s three chickens for $100.
“He wanted to make sure that he got the best chickens, and he did,” Murray said.
Murray sold the remaining 12 chickens to other customers all in one day.
For his turkeys, Murray obtained six turkeys from Cackle Hatchery in February. When they were eight weeks old, Murray sold three of them, giving him three remaining turkeys for potential fair entry. He selected a broad-breasted bronze hen named Mabel, who was four months old and weighed 25 pounds.
Bagnell purchased Mabel for $75 at a barn sale.
Murray first entered the county fair in 2014, showing only chickens. The next year, he began showing chickens and turkeys, and his turkey that year was chosen as the 4-H Club reserve champion tom. Murray also showed a turkey in 2016, along with his chicken meat pen.
In 2016 Murray was part of the three-person Fallbrook 4-H Club team which took first place in the small animal knowledge bowl. Murray did not participate in this year’s knowledge bowl.
“This year I just made it my goal to win showmanship,” he said. “I prepared extremely hard this year.”
A version of the knowledge bowl served as the tiebreaker after Murray and Fallbrook 4-H Club member Jayden Murray, who is not related to Kyle Murray, tied for first and second place in the turkey showmanship event. A draw of knowledge-related questions determined the showmanship champion, and Kyle Murray was given first place.
“There was a lot of competition this year, so I didn’t know how well I would do,” Murray said.
He also took first place in the chicken meat pen showmanship. The showmanship winners for each small animal group advanced to the round-robin master showmanship competition for all small animals. Murray’s chickens took sixth place among the eight master showmanship entries. Jayden Murray competed as the turkey representative for the master showmanship competition.
Kyle Murray has two younger siblings, both of whom are members of Fallbrook 4-H Club and showed pigs at the county fair. Timothy Murray was in 11th grade during the most recent school year, and Erin Murray was a high school freshman.
“I enjoyed the support for me in four years of 4-H,” Kyle Murray said. “4-H was an incredibly valuable experience. It was a good investment for me. Over four years, I learned a lot.”
That learning included the development of leadership and entrepreneurism skills that will carry him into the future.
“You can benefit and learn from what life throws at you,” Murray said.