Livestock auction

Johnny Johnson calls in a bid as Mallory Ruwe shows her sheep during the livestock auction Wednesday at the Washington County Fair. This was the first time an auction has been held in 43 years.

When organizers revived the Washington County Fair's livestock auction in 2018 after a more than 40-year absence, they hoped it would lead to more participation in the fair's livestock competitions.

About two years ago, Jeff Warren, who serves on the livestock auction committee and is superintendent of the beef show, said the fair was facing declining numbers in the livestock shows.

"The reason for that is the fact that it is a very expensive hobby, to say the least," said Warren, whose son was among the exhibitors.

Raising and caring for an animal for just the county fair alone can cost between $2,000 and $4,000, Warren said. So, it's understandable, he said, that it can be hard for some kids who want to participate to do so because of the expense.

By reviving the livestock auction, organizers hope they can give those participants a way to recoup some of those costs by selling their animals at the end of the fair.

The livestock auction will begin at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Two Rivers Bank Arena at the fairgrounds. Animals will be on display beginning at 2 p.m.

Exhibit categories include market beef, market hogs, market sheep and market goats.

Any 4-H exhibitor who shows one or more entry of a cover species at the fair will be eligible to enter one of the animals they had shown during the fair.

In looking at the early exhibitor information, Warren said organizers are seeing an upswing in participants and he expects, overall, they could be double from a year ago.

"We seem to be getting the bounce that we kind of expected," Warren said.

While they won't know for sure until everyone shows, he said in the beef area, there have been 86 stalls assigned, which is up from 60 last year.

He said the number of market-ready animals at the auction is also expected to increase.

"We sold on the auction last year, four head of market ready cattle and this year, while we don't have official entrants, we know of at least 10 of those cattle are expected to go through the auction this year."

Gary Lambrecht, former president of the Washington County Fair Board and now a livestock auction committee member, is excited about the entrant numbers he's seen. Lambrecht said, while participant numbers have been down in recent years, the livestock exhibits are still a big draw for fair attendees.

Lambrecht said the number of people involved in production agriculture is declining. This is a way for people who aren't involved to get a close-up look at the industry, he said.

"I think a lot of people come to the fair to see the animals," he said.

As with Warren, Lambrecht likes the idea of giving the 4-H'ers financial support so they will continue to show as long as they can and he said if the first year is any indication, the community and business support is there.

"We had a great first year, absolutely fantastic," he said. "The community support, the citizen support was fantastic."

The support didn't just come from buyers. Businesses not able to or not interested in purchasing animals are given a chance to make a donation that goes into a large pot that is used by the committee to purchase animals at the auction.

"The committee bought 13 head last year," Lambrecht said.

Early donations indicate the business support is continuing.

"It has been as good as it was last year," Lambrecht said.

During last year's livestock auction, 53 animals were sold. Warren said each averaged a little more than $900. Overall, $51,500 was raised, with $48,500 of that specific to livestock exhibitors.

"The amount of the premium over the normal market average was $650," Warren said. "In other words, they got the value they would have got if they sold at the West Point livestock auction, plus $650."

By working diligently to make sure they grow the number of exhibitors, Warren also hopes the awareness of the livestock auction also grows.

"We'd love to have more businesses in the local area be aware this is going on and they have the opportunity to support these local kids,” he said.

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