9/7/2013 7:00 AM
By Carol Ann Gregg Western Pa. Correspondent
INDIANA, Pa. — When the judge tapped the grand champion and the reserve grand champion for the Indiana County Fair, he picked two animals owned by the same young exhibitor, Justin Alter, 11.
A smile spread across Justin’s face. His mentor Garett Keith and his mom were smiling, too. Justin is the son of John and Becky Alter.
Justin Alter’s champion natural colored lamb became the grand champion, and his champion Hampshire lamb became the reserve grand champion.
Justin didn’t just happen to be the double winner, he worked for it. All summer he competed in jackpot shows, events sanctioned by the Pennsylvania Club Livestock Association, around western Pennsylvania, and each week he and his lambs got a little bit better.
“Each week, the judge would tell me something I needed to work on,” Alter said. “Then I would go home and work on that so I could do better at the next show.”
Keith, the breeder of Alter’s lambs, was very proud of the work that the young exhibitor did.
A computer-generated poster hung above the stall of Justin’s lambs at the fair. Through the poster, Justin expressed his appreciation for all Keith had done for him throughout the 2013 show season.
“Every week, Keith would come pick up Justin and his lambs, and they would go off to a show,” said Justin’s mom. “He has done so much to help Justin do well.”
Keith said he loves sharing his love of sheep with those coming up through the program. He grew up in the Indiana County sheep program and housed his sheep in the barn of Bob Neese, who is the current sheep superintendent of the Indiana County Fair. Keith showed 4-H lambs for eight years.
At the encouragement of friend and mentor Greg Beatty, Keith has started his own business breeding club lambs for the next generation of 4-H showmen.
“I will help any of the youth that are showing sheep that I have bred,” he said. “Whatever it takes.”
Keith said he wants the youth to be the best and to enjoy the experience of showing animals. He helps them appreciate how hard work leads to success in the show ring. Justin has also competed at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
Justin and his brother also showed hogs. His brother, Brandon, 17, showed the reserve grand champion hog. Justin won reserve with his two hogs in their respective classes.
Justin attends the sixth grade in Penns Manor School District.
Livestock sales during the auction totaled $199,038.35 with 94 pigs, 48 lambs and 28 steers.
The grand champion market swine shown by Lyndsie Michael weighed 260 pounds and sold for $7.25 per pound. Brandon Alter showed the reserve grand champion market swine, which weighed 246 pounds and sold for $9.50 a pound.
Justin Alter’s grand champion market lamb weighed 131 pounds and sold for $9.50 per pound. His reserve champion market lamb also weighed 131 pounds and sold for $10.50 per pound.
Taylor Shearer showed the grand champion market beef. The steer weighed 1,360 pounds and sold for $3.50 per pound. Tyler Keith showed the reserve champion market beef. His steer weighed 1,282 pounds and sold for $2.50 a pound.