Livestock auction moves to April | News

LANCASTER — The Antelope Valley Fair Association Board of Directors voted to move the Kiwanis Junior Livestock Auction and shows to April beginning in 2024 in conjunction with the fair, following two hours of public comment from about 25 callers during a Zoom meeting Thursday evening, with most opposed to the change.

The Board voted 9-2, with directors Mark Troth and Deana Ward dissenting.

Although the Antelope Valley Fair and Alfalfa Festival was canceled for 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19, the livestock auction was held both years. The 65th livestock auction in 2020 was hybrid only; Last year’s 66th livestock auction was a hybrid auction with online and in-person bidding at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds.

Student exhibitors from the Valley’s various 4-H, Grange and FFA groups as well as independent exhibitors raise, prep and showcase their swine, lambs, cattle, goats and poultry for the event.

Multiple callers who opposed the move from the traditional late August schedule to April said the young exhibitors would miss the opportunity to meet the public and share their knowledge during the fair. They also cited the potential difficulty in finding breeders willing to breed livestock for the spring as well as the increased cost to winterize animal pens. Others expressed concern that without the AV Fair to show at, student and public interest will wane.

“The Antelope Valley and the livestock show has been a tradition every family in the Valley looks forward to every year,” said caller Jim Carson, who has been part of the livestock community for 40 years. “To break that tradition would be disheartening to many.”

Olivia Nibbelink, president of the Canyon Coyotes 4-H Club, has exhibited at the fair six times. Her family has four exhibitors at the fair, each with multiple animals.

“Having the livestock show during the fair is important for many reasons,” Nibbelink said. “Not only do we get to talk with the community that comes to the fair and show them our animals, but we also get to interact with people that come just for the fair that come out of the AV.”

Nibbelink added a spring livestock auction would cost her more to provide shelter and heat for the animals during the winter.

Caller Dannon Shaughnessy has been involved with the AV Fair since 1990, first as a 4-H member and then, when she was in high school, as a 4-H member and FFA. She serves as the 4-H leader of the Westside 4-H and also serves on the livestock council.

“I can see that some of it is enticing but I also find out that asking these FFA kids who are in high school, who are in very socially-economically challenged areas, to go ahead and buy their animals around Christmas time, or a couple of weeks after Christmastime, is going to hugely impact their ability to do so,” Shaughnessy said. She added, “It’s just more reasonable to make smaller changes that are not so drastic.”

Kyndall Segale, a nine-year 4-H member, serves as president of the Quartz Hill 4-H. This will be her last year showing.

“As a student who’s been in the (International Baccalaureate) program at Quartz Hill High School, and who is also a part of the (Advanced Placement) program at Paraclete High School, I also have three other siblings who are going through the AP program right now with me, and two siblings who’ve been through the IB program,” Segale said. “I want to let everyone know that changing the (livestock) to a spring time, auction right in the middle of finals week and the end of the year testing, would be a huge mistake for kids who actually take their education seriously like my family does and I know many other 4-H, FFA and Grange families do.”

“I think that an August or September fair with the livestock would be the best option,” 4-H member Rebekah Kasperson said. “I have raised animals since I was nine years old, and one of my favorite things was to be able to show at the fair and talk to people who don’t know much about animals and just be able to show them my project.”

Animal breeder Adriana Coonce, a hog breeder in San Bernardino County, said she does not have time to breed for a spring fair.

“I don’t have enough people to purchase all of my hogs for a spring fair,” Coonce said. “I just don’t, in my capacity of breeding, have enough time to breed a couple of sows to benefit me for an early spring fair.”

Connor Markley, vice president of the Livestock Council and Alpine Grange, supported the move as long as it was not a stand-alone event but included with a spring fair.

Julie Briggs, chairperson of the AV Fair Livestock Council, read a letter from Palmdale High School FFA adviser and farm teacher Sharon Weisenberger, who supported the proposed schedule change of the livestock auction and show from summer to spring.

‘Nobody likes change outcomes because change is challenging, however, there are so many potential positive from your forward thinking and planning,’ Briggs read. “As a teacher, the best time to miss my classes is near the end of the year. At this time we are wrapping things up and most students have solidified their grade.”

Littlerock High School ag teacher Robin Olsen agreed.

“Change is hard,” Olsen said. “But I can tell you that animals can flourish even if we change the dates. They can adjust; they can be bred correctly at the right time to make this happen.”

Olsen added there are breeders who would be available to breed animals for a spring livestock auction.

“What I can tell you is having our kids there showcasing what they do in front of the public is important; it’s very important,” teacher Timothy Green. “Having them be able to speak to the public, inform the public about what we do, and let people know that our lifestyle is just as important as any others is huge.”

Antelope Valley Union High School District Superintendent Greg Nehen supported the proposed change, saying it would benefit students who previously could not participate. For example, ninth-grade students would be able to participate in their freshmen year rather than wait for the summer break between their freshmen and sophomore years or students traveling over the summer with their families.

“We’re looking to create multiple opportunities for kids to get involved in school, and ag is a great way to do that,” Nehen said.

More seniors would be able to participate before they graduate and transition to college, military service, or full-time work, he added. Students would also miss less instructional time with a switch to a spring schedule.

“We believe, and this is in consultation with AG in the high school district, believe that it’s a way to bring more students into the fold and to be able to raise animals either jointly or individually and to be able to enjoy the experience and also the potential revenue for it.”

Director Charles Hughes, in response to Coonce’s comments, said that hogs can be bred any month.

“It’s just a little bit of changing up your breeding cycle,” Hughes said. As a buyer, Hughes added, he will continue to donate money to make sure the student exhibitors have the best possible experience they can have.

Board Vice President Angie Hughes originally moved to move the livestock auction and show to spring without attaching it to any other event due to the uncertainty of the dates.

Hughes has been a 4-H exhibitor and is the parent of five children, as well as a buyer and somewhat of a breeder.

“We don’t have all the research, but I know that our community … we have never, ever, ever let our kids down,” she said. “In the pandemic, we rose above it and we exceeded all expectations.”

Director Gus Camacho amended Hughes’ motion, with Hughes’ support, to move the livestock show and auction to coincide with the spring fair.

Director Troth opposed the change after hearing from the callers.

“I think the livestock needs to stay with the fall, October fair,” Troth said. “I heard a lot of compelling reasons as to why it should stay with the October fair.”

Troth, whose two daughters who went trough the AP and IB programs, found an AP and IB student Segale’s argument about the workload on students who also exhibits the most compelling.

Ward also opposed the change.

“At this particular time, I would like to do some more research with the Antelope Valley School District to ensure that the barns are capable of housing animals for FFA children that want to participate,” Ward said. “I think we need to do some more due diligence before turning this into an April fair show.”

“As they’re getting into IP exams, probably the most stress you’ll see a teenager under,” Troth said. “I just haven’t heard enough why it’s a good idea to move it to a springtime show.”

“We in no way as a Board want to hurt the kids and the livestock community,” Director Howard Harris said. “We have fought diligently since I’ve been on the Board to make sure that that never goes away. We are in full support of that; moving it to the spring is nothing more than our attempt to make it a better fair for the kids and the animals.”

Drew Mercy, president of the Antelope Valley Fair Association Board of Directors, thanked all of the speakers. As the former 4-H exhibitor who participated in the livestock program, Mercy wanted to join the Fair Board to protect the livestock program and continue to have it for as long as possible.

Participation has dropped over the decades, Mercy said, noting in the ’90s they had so many animals they had to put a cap on it.

“In order to increase participation my view is that we have to find a way to allow kids that don’t have animal property to participate and grow that side of it as well,” Mercy said. “I do think conforming with the school year helps us do that.”

Mercy agreed the ideal experience for the youth is to have it coincide with the fair.

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