UPDATE: Since this article was published, the Colusa County Fairgrounds have released information regarding the virtual auction. Read the information here.
The months of hard work that youth spent on raising livestock was overshadowed by the uncertainty of the ultimate goal of selling during the Colusa County Fair, due to COVID-19 restrictions by the state. On April 13, the Colusa County Fair Board made the decision to scale back on Colusa County Fair activities and the scales continued to change.
Frequent meetings of the Fair Board were held to discuss ways to observe the guidelines for physical distancing during the Jr. Livestock Show and Auction, which were set to begin this week.
On Saturday evening, officials announced that the hopeful plans of hosting a live auction were halted entirely when officials with the California Department of Food and Agriculture stated that such an event would violate California’s current stay-at-home order.
“At this time we have been forced to pivot to a virtual show and sale after exhausting every option available to fight the state’s decision,” read Saturday’s statement by the 44th District Agriculture Association.
“We would like to thank the fair board and the community for pivoting to a virtual event,” said Steve Lyle, spokesperson for the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “These have been successful throughout the fairs network this year. Unfortunately, for health reasons due to COVID-19, fairs and livestock shows are considered mass gatherings and are currently not permitted anywhere in the state. As a result, the state was unable to permit an in-person livestock auction.”
“I’ve heard a lot of people had buyers lined up. Are these buyers going to buy other animals? Are they going to be interested in my animal?” wondered Rebekah McPeek, 15, who started out raising rabbits four years ago and recently upped her the stakes to her goat “Leo.”
Having only dealt with a well-attended live auction, McPeek didn’t send out letters.
“I don’t exactly know anybody to send letters to, so I’m usually dependent on people walking in and I give them information, and I won’t exactly have that this year,” she said.
McPeek added that she is tired, but also increasingly nervous as the time for auction draws near. “It’s my first time doing goats,” she said. “I have a great goat, but I just don’t know what I’m going to do.”
McPeek said she is hopeful to get a good auctioneer.
Jessica Smith, 13, vice president of the Maxwell FFA for two years, said she earmarks the auction profits for college.
This year is Smith’s fifth year as an exhibitor, previously entering rabbits, but this year she went bigger with her lambs, “Spot” and “Crash,” who were entered for showmanship and as meat. She said she intends to continue with entering lambs next year.
Smith prepared her lambs for show by shearing them, while she waited for the official green-light from the Colusa County Board of Directors, which never came.
The Colusa County Fair Board of Directors said in their statement that their ultimate goal is to offer a way for the youth to exhibit their animals and facilitate the sale of those animals. The youth who choose to participate say that they enjoy learning about how to care for their animals: deworming them every 30 days, trimming hooves, shearing sheep, and making sure they get plenty of exercise for quality meat.
Belsazar Haro just completed his sophomore year at Pierce High School, while raising a lamb for the auction. Haro started showing in the fifth grade, and he and his siblings have been showing livestock for auction for years.
“It’s taught me to stay responsible,” said Haro. “I feed them and keep track of how much weight; if they’re gaining and how much or if they’re losing weight.”
As auction circumstances evolved, the youth said they would try to adapt and overcome a situation that is as unpredictable as the animals.
“It’s just seeing how things are going, and try to work things out from there,” said Haro. ■