Most county fairs across the state are reporting an unexpected phenomenon during the current economic downturn — an increase in total gross sales at University of Wyoming Extension 4-H livestock auctions compared to previous years.
Over half of the counties reported an increase, with the rest reporting similar or slightly lower sale numbers from previous years.
Albany, Park, Teton and Washakie counties had record sales.
In Albany County, the highest gross sale had been about $450,000, and this year that was surpassed with a record-breaking $600,000.
“I really don’t know the reason,” said Mary Louise Wood, Albany County 4-H educator. “Everybody is super appreciative. It still gives me goose bumps.”
The idea of a record-breaking sale was also a shock for Tycee Brown, Park County 4-H educator.
Brown said they tried for the first time an online auction format to help allow people who may be concerned about attending for health reasons, or even allow family and friends from far away to participate and watch.
Hogs, lambs, goats and rabbits were all reportedly up in numbers from last year, while beef was slightly down. One goat sold for $120/lb., setting a new record from the pervious of $75/lb.
“I’m just very grateful in Wyoming we have been able to have livestock shows and sales and we have such good community support, not just here in Park County but around the state,” said Brown.
Teton County reported an almost 20 percent sale increase from last year.
“My guess as to why it might be higher is because the people who have the money felt a swell of emotional support for the kids and families in the program,” said Glenn Owings, Teton County 4-H educator.
Owings also thought the fair received more attention than normal because there hasn’t been a lot going on.
Amber Armajo, 4-H educator in Washakie County, had no explanation for the increase in numbers, but said it was the best they have ever had.
“I went back and did a spreadsheet for history purposes and have the highest bottom dollar and the highest averages ever,” said Armajo.
Others around the state have been pleasantly surprised by the turnout at livestock auctions at fairs this year despite economic concerns.
“We were worried, but our community held strong and showed up to support our kids,” said Bryce McKenzie, 4-H educator in Johnson County. “The kids are very fortunate during these uncertain economic times that our society has faced.”
Sara Fleenor, 4-H educator in Crook County, also reported the livestock sale grossed higher than last year.
“We had a great turnout, and I think that some of the reasons were people wanting to support kids, and also, we advertised heavily that our packing plants had spots reserved for those animals to be processed within the next two weeks, so no need to wait on their meat,” said Fleenor.
Despite a small decrease in Natrona County, 4-H educator Joddee Jacobsen said she believes the county still had an outstanding sale.
“I think it’s important to remember that Casper and Natrona County have been hit especially hard with the decline of oil exploration, drilling and fracking,” said Jacobsen. “I think even with the slight decline, we still have the top sale in the state in regard to the total amount of the sale.”
The Natrona County sale grossed about $878,000, which was only down about $10,000 from the previous year.