By Tessa Baker, Powell Tribune
It’s hard to describe this year’s Park County Junior Livestock Sale with words — so just look at the numbers. In about four-and-a-half hours, the animals put up for sale on Saturday fetched an astounding total of $645,442.
That’s an increase of 41% — or just over $188,000 — from last year, which was itself a record-setting sale. The 2021 event also marked the first time in county history that the Junior Livestock Sale exceeded a half-million dollars, skyrocketing right by that benchmark.
“The sale was absolutely unbelievable,” said Joe Bridges, chairman of the sale committee. “I don’t know how you go about describing such a tremendous event and to give the accolades to the businesses and individuals that were willing to come and show their support for the kids.”
Across the board, average prices were up for all animals, with some reaching record highs.
A total of 248 youth with FFA and 4-H sold livestock on Saturday, which was 13 more animals than 2020, when the auction broke records at $457,430. There were 15 more steers, but those upticks alone weren’t responsible for this year’s increase in the grand total.
In a normal year, the increase in big-ticket animals like steers may have netted an additional $40,000 at most, Bridges said, “but nowhere close to a $200,000 increase.”
“The big story is really how dedicated everybody was to coming and supporting these kids and just being extremely generous,” he said.
Buyers were excited to get out and attend the sale in-person, Bridges said, as online bids dropped from 2020.
“Obviously, there were still bids and still buying that was done online, but it wasn’t as active as it was the year before,” he said. “I think that was just because everybody was excited to get out and go do something, you know, to get things back to normal.”
‘It was crazy
to watch it take off’
Saturday’s sale started off strong, and that momentum carried through to the final bid.
“You’re always nervous when they start off high that you’re gonna have a cliff at some point in time,” Bridges said.
But that drop never came.
“The crazy thing was, even with them spending this much money, there were still buyers at the end going, ‘I still haven’t bought what I need yet,’” Bridges said. “Prices actually ramped throughout the sale instead of dipping off.”
For the first time, the highest-selling lamb was the very last lamb through the sale.
“It was crazy to watch it take off towards the end,” Bridges said.
The overall number of lambs and goats at the sale dropped from 2020 and pigs stayed about the same, while there were more steers and double the number of rabbits.
Even with the uptick in steers, the average price was up 5 cents per pound, which Bridges called “phenomenal.”
This year, 26 rabbits sold for an average of $758 apiece — up nearly 48% from last year’s average of $513.
In years past, one rabbit could jump to around $700 or higher, but as an outlier, Bridges said.
It’s rare for a rabbit to reach $1,000, “and we sold quite a few over $1,000,” he said.
“As prices escalated on some of these other animals, some of the buyers — just to utilize the money that they wanted to spend there — they started chasing the rabbits,” Bridges said.
Buyers often come with a certain amount they want to spend.
“They truly are trying to give it to the kids, and so at the end of the day, they want that budget spent,” Bridges said. “They’re there with one thing in mind and that’s to help the kids as much as they possibly can.”
Core group sets the tone
As the longtime chairman of the sale committee, Bridges said the Junior Livestock Sale is “a tremendous thing to be involved with,” commending the faithful buyers and dedicated volunteers.
A core group of buyers sets the tone for the sale, he said.
“They don’t want to be singled out and recognized, so I won’t name them, but they know who they are,” Bridges said. “… They really bring the sale along and help those kids out, and they do it year in and year out.”
If things get uncertain as to whether the sale is going to hold or move, “they will hold it there and move it forward,” he said.
With the increase in steers this year, the core buyers ensured kids got good prices.
Cody Regional Health
“… they bought a lot of steers, because they were trying to hold that price for those kids,” Bridges said.
In addition to the faithful businesses and individuals who show up every year, the 2021 auction also saw new buyers. Bridges thanked all the buyers who supported the sale, both in-person and online.
For the first time, add-ons could be submitted online. With an add-on, a supporter contributes a specific amount of money to a youth without purchasing the whole animal.
Colby and Codi Gines — who own MM Auction Services — added that function, which Bridges called “a super neat thing.”
He said MM Auction Services did a nice job handling both the in-person auction and online bids. A TV monitor was added above the ring, so buyers could see the current bid and other details.
The work of closing the books on the 2021 sale will continue into October, before the committee starts working on the next one in December. Bridges said accolades go to sale committee secretary Jennifer Triplett and treasurer Andrea Mehling, as they do the bulk of that work.
Throughout the year, many tasks — from weigh-ins to helping out during the sale to printing materials — are completed by volunteers. As just one example, Bridges asked his nephew to get the TV set up on Friday night, and it was ready by Saturday.
“There’s a ton of different people out there that step up to the plate and make things happen,” Bridges said. “…There’s no way for us to ever keep track of how many man hours there truly are, but it doesn’t happen without the whole community.”
Livestock Sale Numbers
Average: $3.89/pound (up from $3.84 last year)
Highest seller: Grant George at $5.50/pound
Buyer: Rimrock Tire
Average: $10.31/pound (up from $7.43 last year)
Highest seller: Oaklee Smith with $17/pound
Buyer: Yellowstone Sports Medicine
Average: $15.03/pound (up from $10.06 last year)
Highest seller: Veronica Kovach with $26/pound
Buyer: Valley Ranch
Average: $18.06/pound (up from $14.16/last year)
Highest seller: Onyx Miller with $50/pound
Buyer: Heritage Health Center
Average: $758 (up from $513 last year)
Highest seller: Barrett George at $1,500
Buyer: Big Horn Co-op