In a year defined by disappointments, Terri Siddoway figured the annual youth livestock auction, the culminating event of the Baker County Fair, would continue 2020’s troubling trend.
But when the bidding started it soon became obvious that this wasn’t so.
The 4-H/FFA auction on Aug. 7 indeed set a record, one that Siddoway describes with a single word: “amazing.”
But this wasn’t the sort of record that Siddoway, president of the sale committee, feared would result from the economic downtown, restrictions on public events and other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 157 animals on the block brought in $307,070.09 for the local youth who raised the goats, lambs, steers, rabbits and swine.
That’s the highest sales total ever for the auction, for which detailed results date to 1981.
“Overall I couldn’t be happier,” Siddoway said. “We had fully accepted that our sale would be less profitable this year due to the restrictions.”
This year’s sale, which followed a Baker County Fair that was without some traditional events, including the open class competitions, broke the record of $300,252 set in 2019.
“We are so proud of our community for stepping up and supporting our kids with their projects during these trying times,” Siddoway said. “The kids were so thankful to just be able to show and definitely did not expect this kind of support at the auction. We couldn’t live in a better place.”
Although the Fair wasn’t open to the public this year, Siddoway said organizers strived to make sure the livestock show and sale, the events that dozens of youngsters devote months of work to, were as normal as possible.
“That was our focus,” Siddoway said. “We wanted them to be able to show their animals and come and be together.”
She said participants readily complied with COVID-19-related requirements.
“Kids wore their masks when they were supposed to, and there were no problems with people adhering to the guidelines,” Siddoway said.
The major change to the auction was that exhibitors showed their animals outside rather than in the show barn, where the occupancy limit would have been lower.
Swine, sheep and goats were in a ring set up at Leo Adler Field, while steers were in another, larger area.
The auction itself took place inside as usual, Siddoway said.
Each year the sales committee submits bids on behalf of buyers who can’t attend the auction, and Siddoway expected that with people trying to avoid public gatherings, there would be greater demand for proxy bidding.
But that wasn’t the case, she said.
Instead, the auction attracted several new buyers.
One of those is Paul Radloff, owner of Agar Transportation in Ontario, a trucking company that hauls cattle and other livestock across the continental U.S.
Radloff said his company bought three hogs, two lambs, two goats and two steers at the Baker County auction.
He said he always tries to support youth who are involved in livestock, and he was impressed that Baker County put on a live auction.
Radloff said he plans to bid on animals at the Harney County Fair next weekend in Burns.