The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Beka Compton
The Times 

Livestock exhibitors hope for a sale solution

The Walla Walla Fair board will meet again this week to discuss livestock sale opportunities


Courtesy photo

Waitsburg FFA member Grace Coulston after earning champion honors during market classes.

WALLA WALLA-The cancellation of the Walla Walla Fair and Frontier Days was met with both a sigh of relief and a breath of frustration. Youth exhibitors, especially market animal exhibitors, are hopeful an alternative sales opportunity will be found.

Raising a market animal is expensive. Hogs, for example, are purchased in early to mid-March as weanlings. From the day the animal arrives, the 4-H or FFA member has to care for and work with their project.

FFA and 4-H members must purchase special high-quality feed that is formulated for weight gain. An average hog will eat between 700-900 pounds of feed by the time the animal is ready for market. Feed is typically sold in 50-pound bags for between $18-22 each.

By the time a hog is ready to sell at the Walla Walla Fair, an exhibitor is looking at hundreds, if not thousands of dollars invested in their animal. In 2018, more than 150 exhibitors sold hogs at the fair, netting more than $100,000 in sales.

The Walla Walla Fair saw over 315 animals go through the sale ring in 2018. Many more animals were exhibited in non-sale competitions including horses and dairy goats.

Market animal projects offer a unique opportunity for exhibitors to learn record-keeping skills, as each animal must be thoroughly documented in order to sell. All vaccinations, medications, feeds, and veterinary expenses must be recorded.

The Walla Walla Fair and Frontier Days hosts between 140 and 160 FFA and 4-H clubs during the five-day fair over Labor Day weekend, with kids from Walla Walla, Asotin, Garfield and Columbia counties, as well as kids within the Milton-Freewater School District.

As a previous exhibitor and a father of previous exhibitors, livestock director Darren Gobel understands how much time, effort and money goes into each market animal. As a businessman, he understands the difficulties the pandemic has presented.

"From an economic standpoint, it's tough. Some families can handle the hit, others can't," he said.

"It's tough on everyone," said Gobel. "We are going to do everything we can to make something happen."

Gobel said community members have submitted ideas to the fair board on how to handle an alternative sale and he is hopeful that a solution will be presented soon.

At a meeting earlier this month, the Walla Walla Fair Board of Directors discussed the possibility of a virtual livestock sale. In past years, the livestock sale has been put on by the Walla Walla Cattlemen's Association, and logistics are still uncertain. The fair board will meet on June 23 to further discuss ideas to keep the livestock sale moving forward.


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