Locally-raised animals up for bid at county fair

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Exhibitor Lily Mitchell is pictured with buyer Ben McCullick, of Christianson Feed Mill, Wauzeka. Mitchell had the grand champion steer last year. (Submitted photos)

Exhibitor Chad Achenbach is pictured with buyer/processor Kevin Schaaf, of Eastman Locker, and last year’s grand champion market hog.

By Correne Martin

A great way to put locally-raised meat in your freezer and help support Crawford County youth at the same time would be to attend the Meat Animal Auction at the Crawford County Fair Saturday, Aug. 29, at 1 p.m. The showing and bidding takes place in the sheep and swine building on the fairgrounds and lasts a couple hours. Water and lemonade will be provided in case of hot weather.

This year, 52 young fair exhibitors, ages 9 to 19, will take their beef and dairy steers, sheep, swine, and possibly rabbits, to auction. Each of those can exhibit up to two animals, and many of the kids do, so there’s typically an average of 50 to 70 animals up for sale, auction emcee Lonnie Achenbach explained. Participation in the Meat Animal Auction provides the kids a fun experience with the sales and market process and it affords them the opportunity to make money for their future college education or agricultural business.

“This gives them a little bit of money for their bank account every year so, when they get to college or ready to start a small farm, it’s quite substantial,” said Achenbach, whose children have sold animals at the fair.
Small businesses and individuals are invited to take part as buyers. Each child is asked to send out letters to area businesses asking them to come to the auction and bid. Usually, according to Achenbach, around 30 to 40 buyers get involved.

“The buyers tend to bid on the animals from the kids they know,” added Amy Oppreicht, whose oldest son Joey, 12, has sold pigs, sheep and steers at the Meat Animal Auction. “I know, for example, Peoples State Bank sends out a letter to tally what their employees want for their freezers. Then they try to buy that much meat and they also try to buy from their employees’ and customers’ kids (at each of the county fairs in the communities they serve).”

Of course, steers and swine tend to be the more popular animals at auction, but sheep are frequently sold and the grand champion or reserve champion rabbits, on occasion, come on the docket.

“There aren’t a lot of buyers for rabbit meat and, oftentimes, they’re pets,” Oppreicht noted.

During an auction, the exhibitors lead their animals around the ring and then Achenbach talks a little about each kid. “Mostly because I’ve been around them for four days, I know who’s a hard worker and what their personalities are like,” Achenbach stated. “I try to add a little flavor in there to make it fun too.” After the once-around, Kramer Real Estate and Auction takes care of the auctioneering and the audience engages in the bidding action. Last year, Oppreicht said she helped a company bid over the phone.

“We’re willing to do whatever we can to increase participation,” she said.

Those who purchase an animal have their choice of getting it processed for their own consumption, sending it to market or simply paying the premium to the exhibitor for his or her hard work and then giving their animal back to them.

Oppreicht said, this year, the Meat Animal Auction will have a buyer’s premium offering through which the purchaser will only pay the difference between market price and what they actually bid on the animal. This allows a lot of the small businesses around our area to purchase more but not have to pay as much, she pointed out.

Proceeds from the Meat Animal Auction go mostly to the youth exhibitors. A percentage also goes toward trucking as well as to the auction committee for advertising and reinvestment in the future auctions.
Following the Meat Animal Auction, most of the animals are shipped off to the lockers in Gays Mills, Eastman and Bloomington. “We have a number of trucks shipping off animals,” Oppreicht said. “Sunday is a crazy day at the fair.”

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