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August 02, 2011 9:41 am

‘Bittersweet’ livestock auction

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Weston Borcher works on finishing touches while shearing a sheep Wednesday night at the Park County Fair. Weston Borcher works on finishing touches while shearing a sheep Wednesday night at the Park County Fair. Tribune photo by Carla Wensky

The story of the 2011 Junior Livestock Sale comes down to the numbers.

The  auction, the conclusion of livestock events at the Park County Fair, featured more 4-H and FFA members selling animals than last year. Livestock sale chairman Joe Bridges said although the sale netted about $14,000 more than last year’s $276,000 sale, more sellers means the average sale meant less money for individual sellers.

“As a whole, the sale’s a kind of bittersweet report,” Bridges said. “Some pretty good higher ones, but across the board our averages were down.”

Some potential sellers were unable to market their animals because they did not weigh enough at weigh-ins on Wednesday. The week before the sale, Bridges had worried that even more livestock would not make weight, and he said he was surprised at how well it turned out.

“Obviously, we had a few kids that didn’t sell that were hoping to,” Bridges said.

Hogs “took the biggest hit,” Bridges said, with 106 selling at an average $3.60 per pound. In 2010, 101 hogs brought an average $4.18 per pound.

Lambs were consistent from 2010, with 52 selling for an average $5.48 per pound. Last year, buyers spent an average of $5.62 per pound for 55 lambs.

More steers went on the auction block this year, with 46 animals selling for an average of $2.52 per pound. The 2010 sale had 33 steers at an average $2.84 per pound.

Buyers bought 21 rabbits for an average of $237.86 apiece — down from last year, when 23 rabbits brought in an average of $319.35 each.

Six goats were sold, up from four last year, at $395.83 each, which Bridges said was “up some 20-odd dollars” from the 2010 sale’s average of $369.75 each.

Bridges said 11 new volume buyers — those who buy three or more animals — joined the ranks this year.

“That was a huge increase,” Bridges said. “That was pretty impressive.”

The sale saw 32 volume buyers compared to 25 last year, of which 21 were repeat volume buyers. Bridges saluted the volume buyers and their dedication, “lots of places and businesses that buy an animal every year.”

Bridges said he was happy that buyers stayed to the end of the sale and kept bidding, even though the number of animals probably exceeded the number of buyers.

“Sometimes we have more buyers than animals,” he said. “This year we essentially ran out of buyers.” He plans to encourage kids during the upcoming year to chat with potential buyers — and he will, too — explaining the effort and costs involved in raising a show animal. With some steers, he said, kids didn’t even break even with higher feed prices and other costs.

“They’ve got so much money tied up in these animals,” he said.

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