Junior Livestock Auction

The Sacramento County Fair’s Junior Livestock Auction has been a decades-old tradition for agriculture students in the Elk Grove region. This year’s auction will be held online.

Concerns over the coronavirus pandemic may have caused the cancelation of this year’s Sacramento County Fair, but one of the fair’s decades-old traditions will continue in a new, high-tech format.

The fair’s Junior Livestock Auction, which challenges agriculture students to raise and sell farm animals, will go “virtual” and be held online on May 21-23.

About 500 students are participating in the auction, the fair’s CEO Pam Fryock said. These students include local 4-H Club members as well as Future Farmers of America (FFA) members at both Galt and Liberty Ranch high schools.

“We need the community to come together to support these kids because (the auction sales) go to their college funds,” Fryock said.

The opening bids for all of the animals will begin at 9 a.m. on May 21. Bids will close on May 22 for steers, lambs and goats. The bidding for swine, chickens, turkeys, rabbits and eggs will close on May 23.

Cheryl Reece, an agriculture teacher at Galt High School, said that her students have worked hard all year, despite the challenging times.

“I am so very proud of the kids in our school and community,” Reece said. “I have personally witnessed these exhibitors’ hard work and dedication throughout the entirety of these livestock projects, despite knowing they would never show or exhibit these animals at the Sacramento County Fair. They have maintained their best management practices by continuing to provide proper nutrition, exercise, training and care for these animals to produce a safe, high-quality product for the consumer.”

Reece said that the students have invested significant funds and countless hours to properly raise their animals.

“Galt FFA students alone have a total student fair investment of over $50,000 collectively in their market projects and the local economy,” Reece said. “If individuals would like to support these exhibitors, they can register as a buyer at Sacfair.com to participate in any of these three options – purchase an animal to be processed for their own consumption; purchase an animal for re-sale; or provide an add-on (donation) to the student(s) of your choice.

Buyer registration is now open at the fair’s website. Once registered, buyers will be allowed to preview the animals for sale on a website and they will also know the time when an animal is up for auction, Fryock said.

In this online auction, buyers can stay at home and place bids on animals by using computers or smartphones. Unlike an in-person auction where buyers only have a few minutes to quickly outbid each other on an animal, this online auction allows buyers to place their bids early and later be notified via text messages if they were outbid by other buyers.

When someone purchases a fair animal, they have two options for determining the final destination of the meat – custom or resale. Custom indicates that the buyer wants the meat from the animal. They will pick a harvesting facility and pick up the meat when it is ready.

Resale means that the buyer does not want to take the meat home; instead, the fair resells the animal to a sponsoring retailer. With a resale situation, the buyer only pays the difference between their bid and the predetermined market price for the specific species. In both cases, the buyer gets a tax deduction for any money paid above market value.

Why would someone want to buy an animal when they don’t intend to keep the meat?

Besides a small cut for the fair, the check goes directly to the student that raised the animal to compensate for the sometimes thousands of dollars spent throughout the year.

Purchasing an exhibitor’s animal supports not only the student, but also the fair and the 4-H or FFA club in which the student is involved.

“We’re very excited about new buyers we’ve never had before,” Fryock said. “People are excited to help kids and they get to help fill their freezer.”

To simplify the bidding process, animal pricing will be per head instead of body weight as in years past, and the minimum bids range from $500 for swine and goats to $100 for small animals, and $1,500 for steer. Organizers noted the prices are generally higher than the commercial value, due to the work and special attention of students in raising the livestock.

And as per fair tradition, if purchasing an animal is not an option for a supporter, they are invited to give “add-ons” or additional funds to the exhibitors. These are smaller payments to the exhibitor to congratulate their hard work and are contributions to their next project. They can still support students without having to purchase their animals.  Add-ons will be accepted through June 5 and the minimum contribution is $50.

While learning how to care for their animal, showmen also learn what it takes to run a mini business. They keep careful records of how much time and money they spend on their project, ranging anywhere from one hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Because of their record keeping, they know at what price they need to sell their projects to break even or, hopefully, make a profit.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of buyers at the fair, some exhibitors lose money overall. Because of this, the fair and its participants are looking for more people to come out and purchase animals at the auction.

Fryock said that buyers who cannot join the online auction can instead use the option of “proxy buying” or having county fair staff members place bids on animals for them in the auction. Proxy buyers must fill out a registration form that’s available on the fair’s website, and then fax or email a completed form to the fair staff. Their email is info@sacfair.com and fax number is (916) 263-2973.

For more information on the online livestock auction and buyer registration, visit the fair’s website, www.SacFair.com, or call (916) 263-2975.