Livestock buyers sold on fair’s online auction

Delaware State Fair Premiums Department manager Caitlyn Cain monitors the active bidding during the virtual Junior Livestock Auction on Friday. (Submitted photo/Delaware State Fair)

HARRINGTON — There were still plenty of market animals to choose from at the Delaware State Fair this year, just not in person.

Bidders in Friday’s annual Junior Livestock Auction analyzed online videos and photos of the 116 steers, lambs, goats and swine for sale.

To avoid health and safety risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s bidding was conducted virtually from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In a break in tradition from the typical three- to four-hour auction on the fairgrounds, exhibitors instead uploaded visuals and provided information to promote their prized livestock.

After submitting their profiles from April through June, the youth waited for the offers to finally arrive Friday.

While 18 bids had been made on one steer (the highest being $1,600) by early afternoon, many market animals — almost all raised in Kent and Sussex counties — were awaiting their first.

More than $195,000 has been raised by the auction in previous years, according to fair officials. Would-be buyers also had the option of donating to individual exhibitors.

Overall, Delaware State Fair Premiums Department manager Caitlyn Cain said, “I think it’s going well. Every hour, we’re getting thousands of dollars coming, and that’s been pretty steady so far.”

Though it was difficult to compare the virtual format to an in-person auction, Ms. Cain said she believed proceeds could nearly match or perhaps surpass previous years.

Ultimately, the highest bidder could either take the animal home, donate it or sell it to a packing plant.

Individual exhibitors received the proceeds, while the buyer could choose to donate the livestock to the Future Farmers of America and/or 4-H Club foundations.

The minimum bid for steers was $750, swine started at $500, and lambs and goats began at $300.

Early reaction to the virtual process was promising, Delaware State Fair assistant general manager Danny Aguilar said.

“We found there to be a lot of positivity, a lot of people willing to try it,” he said. “They seemed open to continuing to participate this way in the future, and some buyers who could not have attended in person were grateful to have the opportunity to still take part.”

According to Ms. Cain, “This has been running pretty smoothly because I haven’t been taking a lot of phone calls. It all seems to be working out pretty well.”

Exhibitors seemed to be pleased, Ms. Cain said. They had access to a nearly 53-minute tutorial on YouTube beforehand with instructions on managing the process.

“Based on what I’ve seen on our Facebook page, they’re really excited about how this is going,” Ms. Cain said.

All buyers were required to register online at delawarestatefair.com.