FORT WORTH -- Though the price for the grand champion steer dropped this year, the annual Sale of Champions at the Fort Worth Stock Show surpassed $3 million for the first time.
Stock Show officials say sale receipts show the sale raised $3,126,000, eclipsing last year's record of $2,913,760.
The annual sale of livestock raised by youths marks the conclusion of the 23-day Stock Show and Rodeo.
The grand champion steer, a European crossbred shown by Stock Martin, 12, was bought for $205,000 by the Happy Davis Foundation, the charity that bought the grand champion steers in 2009 and 2011. The price was third-highest ever paid at the sale, but it fell well short of the record $230,000 paid for last year's grand champion steer. The 2010 champ brought $210,000.
"He's just a good calf. He's everything you really want in calf," Stock, a sixth-grader from Hereford, said about his 1,329-pound steer, Lunchbox.
The reserve champion steer, a 1,307-pound European crossbred named Blackie, was bought for $105,000 by Coors Distributing.
Flint Newman, the 17-year-old junior at Stanton High School who showed Blackie, said he spends his time either working or showing cattle.
"That's pretty much my life right there," he said.
Though only 12, Stock is also a big-time player in the cattle show world. He showed and sold the reserve grand champion steer at last year's Stock Show for $155,000. He also had the grand champion steer at the 2012 State Fair of Texas, Woodpecker, who sold at auction for $104,000.
But under rules typical of other shows, Stock received $30,000 of that amount.
That means that Stock, who is four years short of being old enough to drive, has earned more than $390,000 with his show steers over the past year.
"It was great both times to go in there and see all those people bidding on your project," said Stock, who enjoys a wide range of sports, with football being his favorite. "But it's more exciting when you're the grand."
'It comes naturally'
Stock was joined in the sale ring by his 10-year-old sister, Saige, who proudly carried the grand champion banner for her brother while he led his steer. Saige returned later to sell her class-winning European crossbred, Raccoon, for $10,871.50 -- $8.50 per pound.
"They were born and raised on a ranch. It is a normal, everyday thing for them. It comes naturally," said their father, Brian Martin, adding that his son had been showing since he was 5.
Martin cited outstanding breeding as the edge that Lunchbox brought to the competition. The steer's mother has produced a number of winning calves, and the bull, Monopoly, also sired Stock's reserve grand champion last year.
"When he was born, he had that style and that look. Just incredible genetics," Martin said about Lunchbox.
So the Martins know a potential prize-winning steer almost as soon as it hits the ground. But how did they know to give their son such an astonishingly appropriate name?
"Actually my husband wanted to name him Twister Stock. But I told him I just couldn't do Twister," Sherri Martin said. "Stock seemed to fit him [when he was born] and it has."
The Martins, who enjoyed a Del Frisco's dinner Friday night that served as a dual celebration of Stock's victory and his sister's 10th birthday, have no other celebration plans.
"We'll go back home and go back to work," Sherri Martin said, noting that shows in San Angelo, Houston and Austin lie ahead. "Just go back to the barns and try to win another one."
Which brings up the question of why her children are so dedicated to showing cattle. What do they love so much about it?
"That's the easiest question I've answered all day," said Stock, who had become media-weary by midmorning Saturday. "It's winning!"
The Happy Davis Foundation bought its third grand champion steer since 2009. In 2011, the Fort Worth-based charity paid $185,000 for the grand champion, which like all the grand champions since 1983, was also a European crossbred.
"We are just in love with this young man from Hereford, Texas. He's what we are looking for to support. That's why [our foundation is] here --to help people who want a hand up and not a handout," said Al Kaufmann, who along with Jill Davis represented the foundation at the sale.
'Women can make a difference'
There was also a new set of bidders among the elite group known as the Stock Show Syndicate, which is a collection of well-heeled individuals, corporations and nonprofits who work together to assure that the winning junior exhibitors at the Stock Show are well-rewarded for their efforts at the Junior Sale of Champions.
The Fort Worth Business Women, a purchasing group founded by Becky Renfro Borbolla of Renfro Foods, stood out in the sale crowd thanks to their predominantly red cowgirl outfits.
And they were also the only contingency that had a big-city mayor among their ranks.
"We said we were buying from the first girl who had one of the champions or reserved champions," said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, one of the 75 women in the group, which bought the Angus breed champion shown by Taylor Schertz of Denton. "I think it sends a great statement to the community that women can make a difference and that this is all about helping the kids."
And Price vowed that we have not seen the last of her and her compatriots.
"One of these days we are going to buy the grand champion," she shouted.
And Schertz sounds like a young woman who may someday want to be part of the women's team.
"I like everything about showing. It brings out the competitive side in you," said Schertz, 13, an eighth-grader at Immaculate Conception High School in Denton who has been showing cattle for five years.
She said the money she received for her Angus steer, Fiesta, will go into a college fund she shares with her sisters.