For FFA and 4-H youth, all of their hard work on early mornings and late nights will culminate on Saturday afternoon at the Park County Junior Livestock Sale, beginning at 1 …
For FFA and 4-H youth, all of their hard work on early mornings and late nights will culminate on Saturday afternoon at the Park County Junior Livestock Sale, beginning at 1 p.m.
“We’re geared up to have a large sale,” said Joe Bridges, chairman of the sale committee. “We tagged as many [animals] or more than we’ve tagged in quite a few years.”
He anticipates more pigs, rabbits and steers at the 2021 sale.
“Our steer numbers are up a little bit, which is exciting,” he said. “Steers stay pretty stagnant, but this year, we tagged a few more than normal.”
Lambs and goats seem to be holding their own with no big increases, Bridges said.
The 2021 sale should look similar to last year’s event, with buyers having the option to bid in-person or online through MM Auction Services of Powell. The online function was added for the 2020 sale, and sale committee leaders decided to make that feature available this year as well.
“There was some really positive feedback — not only from the COVID side of things, obviously last year that’s why we went that direction, but just the functionality,” Bridges said.
Sometimes, people struggle to make it to Powell for the auction, but the online feature allows them to bid on livestock in real time, whether they’re in Meeteetse or Minnesota.
“It opens up our audience quite a bit for these kids, and we felt like that was worth continuing to do,” Bridges said.
While 2020 was an unusual year amid the COVID pandemic, a longtime tradition held true: Dozens of businesses and individuals supported 4-H and FFA youth at the Junior Livestock Sale. Not only did buyers show up, they did so in a big way — to the tune of more than $450,000, making the record-setting sale one for the books.
“That sale last year was phenomenal,” Bridges said.
He thanked the buyers who faithfully support Park County youth and make the sale possible.
“They’ve never let the youth down … year in and year out, that support is always there,” Bridges said. “And thanks isn’t quite good enough, but that’s what we’ve got, is to say thank you.”
He hopes buyers understand the difference they’re making.
“The kids see it, the parents see it, and it’s just a tremendous organization to be involved with to be able to see everybody step up and to do what they do,” Bridges said.
Last year saw a record number of volume buyers, who purchased three or more large animals (steers, goats, pigs or lambs).
“That means that not only are they coming, but they’re completely committed to it,” he said.
‘Running at tremendously high levels’
Bridges expects prices to stay steady at this year’s sale. During the 2020 sale, average prices rose for every animal except steers (see related graphic).
Last year, some buyers were a little more reserved because of COVID, which Bridges thought led to steer prices coming down. On average, steers sold for $3.84/pound in 2020, down from $4.70 the previous year.
“Anytime you get a nervous buyer, that’s the first one that takes the hit is the steers,” Bridges said. “And so because the steers took a hit, there was also a huge push on the other ones, because that’s where they can transfer some money and still be able to buy the same amount of animals, but maybe not have to spend quite as much per deal.”
Bridges said he’s excited to see where pricing goes in 2021.
“There were some buyers in the seats that weren’t able to buy as much as what they anticipated last year because prices were so good,” he said. “That means that there’s a demand for it, so I think that demand will stay tight.”
Ahead of Saturday’s sale, Bridges said he has talked to some buyers who came with a budget in mind last year, but have revamped that, “because they don’t want to go home not buying something.”
“I would anticipate the sale staying pretty true,” he said. “I would not anticipate any major growth, but when you’re running at tremendously high levels already, holding steady is a good thing.”
FFA and 4-H youth have been “doing a fantastic job” inviting buyers to Saturday’s event, Bridges said, including finding new buyers who may come to the sale for the first time.
“As kids get out and introduce themselves and explain what’s going on, lots of these buyers, and lots of these business owners, are excited to see youth that are involved in something,” Bridges said. “They’re excited to see youth that are actually trying to work and to do things to better the community and all those things that 4-H and FFA bring.”
Once the sale wraps up, there are options for what happens next.
“For these buyers, we have worked really hard to make sure that opportunities are there for whatever they want to do with the animals,” Bridges said. “We will continue to have the resale function that’s there.”
Sale leaders also worked with meat processors, including Roger’s Meat Processing in Powell, to secure some slots for animals to be processed in a timely manner, he said.
“First and foremost, we wanted to make sure our local guys were taken care of,” Bridges said. “In conversations with them, they were booked out and going to be booked out.”
He commended Roger’s Meat Processing for blocking off the month of August for 4-H and FFA projects.
“Kudos to them for doing that,” Bridges said, adding, “We really appreciate that.”
Since it’s not possible to process all the animals locally within a month’s time, Bridges said sale leaders also are partnering with Matt’s Custom Meats in Saint Anthony, Idaho. It’s hard for buyers to hold on to animals until November if a meat processor is booked until then, Bridges said.
“We’re just trying to provide all the opportunities we can, not only for the kids, but the buyers to get things done in a timely manner, and help them out,” he said, adding that it is “fantastic that our local processors are extremely booked up” with business.
Matt’s Custom Meats worked with Park County buyers last year, and Bridges said it went well.
“We’ll have it all ready to roll and we’ll pass on all that information that [buyers] need on sale day to them,” Bridges said. “We just don’t want anybody to be nervous. We’ve done the legwork and have it put together and ready for them to go.”
The online option introduced last year opened up the sale to more buyers and helped the 2020 sale surpass $450,000.
While there are many factors, “we see the online function as being one of the major contributors to that growth that came in there,” Bridges said. “And definitely [we] want to keep that as part of our regimen for that growth to continue to happen and provide opportunities.”
During Saturday’s sale, MM Auction Services will be constantly tracking online bids.
“They can see those bids live, that are up against the people that are physically there,” Bridges said.
Online supporters can put in bids just as if they were sitting in the barn itself, he said, adding that, “it’s a neat way to be able to watch it if you’re at home, even if you’re not bidding.”
For the 2021 sale, MM Auction Services is making it possible for online buyers to do add-ons as well. That was a request following the 2020 sale, and Colby and Codi Gines — who own MM Auction Services — added that function for this year. With an add-on, a supporter can contribute a specific amount of money to a youth without purchasing the whole animal. For example, if grandparents in Iowa want to give $100 toward their granddaughter’s lamb, they can easily do so online.
“It’s a neat function that will be there for people to be able to access and to do that without having to physically be there or trying to track us down to give us some money,” Bridges said, adding, “We’re really excited about that side of it.”
The online sale is available by visiting https://bid.premieronlinesales.com/current-auctions.