Monday, August 17, 2009

Reindeer make history at fair

Kelly Schmitz shows her reindeer at the Tanana Valley State Fair

Among the chickens, rabbits, and steers being auctioned at the Tanana Valley State Fair in Fairbanks on Aug. 14 were three reindeer. This is believed to be the first time reindeer have been featured during a livestock auction at a fair in the US.

Excitement built as the 4-Hers who raised the reindeer entered the arena. A packed house cheered for the young farmers as SNRAS Dean and AFES Director Carol Lewis presented the teens with certificates for completing the pilot project. “We’re very proud of you,” she said.

“They don’t fly,” auctioneer Jerry Marlow quipped. He noted the importance of the occasion, saying, “Tonight is history. Some kids might remember this fifty years down the road.”

The bidding was competitive, with local business people vying to buy the animals for meat. Laura Frame, with the grand champion at 204 pounds, brought in $5.75 per pound from Delta Meat and Sausage. Roscoe Beadle’s reindeer sold for $5.75 per pound to John Ringstad, and Kelly Schmitz’s animal was bought by Dr. Craig O’Donoghue for $7 per pound.

The project kicked off nearly a year ago when the UAF Reindeer Research Program donated reindeer to 4-Hers. Cooperating with RRP on this pilot project are the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Kawerak Reindeer Herders Association. RRP leases its herd from the BIA through Kawerak.

The 4-Hers attended classes and learned how to care for their animals throughout the year. Reindeer have already been distributed to several 4-Hers for next year’s auction.

Since its establishment in 1981, the Reindeer Research Program has taken an active role in the development and promotion of the Alaska reindeer industry. Research projects include herd management, animal health, nutrition, and meat quality. All projects have direct applicability to reindeer herders and producers.

Further reading:
"4-H reindeer auction makes history at the Tanana Valley State Fair", Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Aug. 14, 2009, by Mary Beth Smetzer
"Innovative program puts reindeer in hands of 4-H students," Fairbanks Daily News Miner, June 15, 2008, by Christi Hang
"Tanana Valley State Fair auction will include reindeer", SNRAS Science & News, August 3, 2009

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