Buyers queued up from the exhibit hall all the way into the parking lot at the Garfield County Fairgrounds Saturday afternoon for the annual junior livestock sale that wrapped up this year's county fair.
The individuals, small businesses and corporations who come to the sale determine whether some of the 4-H and Future Farmers of America youth will be able to come back next year with another project.
"There's no way we could afford to do what we do with our kids without the buyers," said Heather Jenkins, who serves as the Livestock Marketing Committee treasurer, and whose two older children, ages 11 and 9, raise pigs, goats and rabbits.
"I couldn't believe the turnout, especially considering how hard this year has been economically," she said. "We are so thankful to the buyers."
Despite the economic downturn, buyers turned out in droves to bid on 230 livestock projects and four general projects in the 2012 sale. Preliminary figures put the grand total at more than $377,000, not counting the add-ons.
"We have really good buyers every year and we really appreciate them," said Liz Chandler, president of the Livestock Marketing Committee. "When that last animal entered the sale ring and we still had a stand filled with buyers, that's fantastic."
Every year, a significant amount of the sale total is attributed to "buy-backs" or "add-ons." In a buy-back, buyers who purchase a project but don't want to keep it can resell the animal at a discounted rate, this year to Western Slope Livestock Auction. The money the buyers spend above the discount is considered a charitable donation. The buy-back program enables businesses and corporations "to help more kids," Chandler said.
In addition, Western Slope Livestock Auction was very generous with its prices, Chandler said. That enabled many buyers who came to the sale with a specific amount to spend to turn around and add any extra remaining money to the projects, ensuring each youth receives a minimum amount from the sale. In 2011, $14,219 of the total sales was attributed to add-ons.
The top price per pound for beef was $8. Goats earned more than $18 per pound, sheep were $15 per pound and swine reached $12.50 per pound. The high price for chickens? A whopping $49 per pound, topped by rabbits at $184 per pound.
The participation numbers for Garfield County are impressive. There were 92 steers in the sale and 75 sold, Chandler said. Eagle County, in comparison, had 12 steers. Chandler credits extension agent Kim Schriver, who is also the interim 4-H director and in charge of youth development, the county commissioners and fair board with the ongoing success of the livestock sale.
"This county has a strong fair," she said. "Kim Schriver believes in our kids. She asks a lot and expects a lot. The kids want to perform and excel. She ramped it up this year."
The commissioners paid for the large fans in the exhibit hall, which were appreciated by both animals and humans during last weeks' sweltering weather. More than one steer was observed Saturday afternoon, face turned to the nearest fan, eyes closed in apparent bliss.
"Our sale was fantastic. We have very good parents, our leadership is strong and the kids did a great job. It was a really good group," Chandler said.