by Stacey Johnston
The Niagara County Fair in Lockport, NY, has been postponed until 2021, but that isn’t stopping Niagara County 4-H youth from pressing forward with market animal projects. The Niagara County Fairgrounds will look emptier than usual come August, but the 4-H’ers barns and hearts are still full.
With help from Bontrager Auctions, the Niagara County 4-H Livestock Auction will take place online this year. Bidding starts July 31 and bids will begin to close out on Aug. 7, through a soft closing.
Niagara County 4-H youth, ranging in age from 8 to 18, have been committed to raising fresh local meat for their communities. The online auction will provide a platform for 4-H’ers to showcase and sell beef steers, lambs, meat goats, hogs, meat birds and meat rabbits. The proceeds of the auction benefit Niagara County’s 4-H youth livestock producers, the next generation of farmers in Niagara County and Western New York. 4-H youth use their auction profits to invest in their herds and flocks, by purchasing more animals, and to also help save for college.
If you have been in a grocery store any time in the last few months, you were probably baffled to see higher meat prices and less selection in the meat department. The coronavirus pandemic disrupted production at U.S. meatpacking plants, leading to higher prices and scarcity for popular items like ground beef and chicken breasts in supermarket meat cases.
Consumers are also cooking at home now more than ever, which means they are buying more protein. This is where your local 4-H livestock auction steps in, so go straight to the source.
Bidding online means anyone can bid from anywhere at any time. If you haven’t been able to make it to your county fair’s livestock auction in the past, it is now coming to you, at your fingertips through your smartphone or computer.
Bontrager Auction services, out of Batavia, NY, will upload photos and videos of the 4-H’ers – their market animals, their biographies and all of the stats provided – to their website, creating a seamless online catalog for bidders to browse. 4-H’ers were also required to participate in virtual shows by walking and “showing” their animals in video clips recorded at their farms, which were judged by a virtual judge.
The other benefit of the online auction this year is that the Niagara County 4-H Auction Committee has secured guaranteed reserved processing slots at local processors. This means that your market animal will be processed in August, soon after you secure the winning bid, and your freezer will be full of fresh local meat for you and your family. For those who don’t have chest freezers or the storage capacity for a whole animal, many split the animal and split costs with family and friends. There is no restriction as to who can register to bid, as long as you have a credit card, which is required to register as an online bidder.
Sometimes it is hard for people to think about needing technology or an internet connection to buy their meat and market animals, but that is something Bontrager Auction understands, which is why they make online bidding easy and straightforward for buyers. Bidding will be done by the pound, with all animal weights being posted next to each lot, except for meat rabbits and meat birds, which are both sold in pairs, not by the pound.
We all know nothing beats the sight of a county fair and a full stand of people in the bleachers, ready to bid. Bidder card numbers and hands waving in the air, the sound of the auctioneer over the speakers and the view of a proud child parading their animal around the ring with the American flag and 4-H flag swaying in the background – these things can never be replaced. And they won’t.
There are always new challenges in farming and even in 4-H, but there is something to be learned and gained as well. Niagara County 4-H youth have proved to their communities over and over again that their dedication and commitment cannot be crippled.
4-H’ers may be disappointed to miss out on their county fairs this summer, but it is making them better and more diverse farmers and producers. The COVID-19 pandemic has not changed the fact that people still need to eat. The coronavirus has not stopped crops from growing, animals from prospering or the sun from shining. The comeback is always better and stronger than the setback.
Consider bidding on these market animals and supporting Niagara County 4-H’ers through their online livestock auction. Visit Bontragerauction.com to view the online livestock catalog, which will be posted at the end of July, once virtual show results are posted. Again, this auction will be open to the public from July 31 – Aug. 7. When the auction concludes, Bontrager’s and the Niagara County 4-H Auction Committee will be contacting the winning bidders to review the details and confirm arrangements.
If you have any questions or would like an auction invitation mailed to you with bidder instructions, email the Niagara County 4-H office at Niagara4H@cornell.edu, call 716.433.8839 or visit @NiagaraCounty4HLivestockAuction on Facebook.