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Morris kid's steer gets $100k at state fair auction

SPRINGFIELD – Shaelye Varner knows it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to raise an award winning steer.

But nothing prepared the 12-year-old from Morris to have her Grand Champion Junior steer sell for $100,000 at the Governor's Sale of Champions in Springfield on Tuesday night.

The sale set records at the state fair, being the first animal sold for a six-figure sum. AT&T, Monsanto, and DeKalb Asgrow combined to bid the $100,000 – which comes to $75.19 a pound, with the steer weighing in at 1,330 pounds.

"This is my second year showing at the state fair," Shaelye said. "Ted [the steer] has everything a judge wants to see. I had high hopes going into this, but that's a lot of money."

She said she will put the money in the bank to save for college. The proceeds also will help someone else go to college, as 10 percent of the winnings go to FFA and another 10 percent to 4-H for a scholarship fund.

Shaelye comes from a long line of cattle showers: Her mother, Laurie Baudino, and her uncle, Eric Baudino, both grew up showing cattle at the state fair, and her cousin Kevin Carey won state Grand Champion in 2008 with a then-record-setting auction price of $50,000.

"My cousins Eric and Laurie both showed cattle but never got to win at the state show," Carey said. "Me winning was the icing on the cake. Shae put the candles on the cake. I couldn't be 155 percent more proud of her."

Carey said Shaelye does double the work he ever did to win the grand champion spot.

Shaelye's dad, Frank Varner, said his daughter puts in six to eight hours a day with her steer, starting at 4:30 a.m.

"It's a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication," Frank Varner said.

Shaelye Varner bought her steer, Ted, last November and at the time of showing he was 17 months old. When picking him out for purchase, she said he looked really good, like he'd have everything needed to win.

As the steer grew over the winter, the workload was rather light, but as summer approached, the work picked up.

"It's an extreme amount of work for a 12-year-old," Laurie Baudino said. "She gets up before 5 a.m. and is out washing him by 5 to 5:30 a.m."

Baudino said other than giving her a morning off here and there to sleep in, Shaelye has gotten up and worked without complaining, giving up time with friends to raise the steer.

"Raising the steer is teaching her a huge responsibility. It's a huge job and you can't not do it just because you don't feel like doing it," Baudino said.

It isn't just her hard work and dedication, but also the steer's temperament that helped win the state fair.

"There is a lot of dedication and a lot of tears," Baudino said. "The steer she had last year wasn't a good one; I couldn't trust it alone with her. This year, the steer was better with her."

Baudino said by having the steer she had last year, Shaelye learned that you can't win every time, even if you work hard.

On top of washing and feeding him, Shaelye has to earn the respect and trust of the animal, so it knows her and isn't scared of her. It has to trust her so she can have the control she needs in the ring as she shows it in front of the judges.

In addition to the state fair, Shaelye has shown and won with this steer at the Illinois Beef Expo and at the University of Illinois.

Shaelye plans to continue to show steer at the state level and hopes to earn even more for her college education. She wants to go to college to major in agriculture, or to become a teacher.

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