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Alister and Owen Clark climbed into the animal pen to pose for pictures with their lambs, Happy and Blackie. It would be the last time the Santa Rosa brothers, 9 and 13, respectively, would get to spend time with their young bucks after the animals were sold Saturday on the auction block at the Sonoma County Fair.

The fair’s junior livestock auction kicked off at 9 a.m., starting with the lamb bids. Goats and rabbits were auctioned in the afternoon.

Blackie was the first in the auction ring after judges named the lamb the fair’s supreme champion. And the 147-pounder, also the 4-H grand champion, was no cheap sheep.

The lamb that Owen Clark, a member of the Green Valley 4-H, fed, exercised and cared for three to four hours a day for months was quickly snatched up at $25 a pound by Nick Nicora with Ovations, the food-service company whose clients include the county fair.

“It’s been a long year,” Owen Clark said after he returned the animal to its pen, where it was to await for the inevitable — the butcher block.

Blackie was one of two $25-per-pound lambs, the highest price paid Saturday. Jennifer Gamba of Live Oak 4-H sold her 107-pound lamb to Sunrise Farms.

Clark said he’s been showing livestock at fairs for four years now and has learned not to get attached to the animals.

“The first year I cried because I was way too attached to them,” he said.

His younger brother wasn’t as prepared to let go of Happy.

“I was really sad because he’s leaving. He feels like a part of my life,” said Alister Clark, a special junior champion who is participating in the auction for the first time.

However, he added, he’s excited to take part in the auction next year. “I like hard work,” he explained.

The auction is one of the fair’s longest-running traditions, said Doug Beretta, who sits on the fair board and is chairman of the agriculture and exhibits committee. He said it’s also an important fundraiser for the kids, who spend a lot of time and money raising their animals. Many of the kids save their money for college, he explained.

“This is their big day,” said Beretta, who also owns Beretta Family Organic Dairy. “They’ve worked hard to prepare their animals — get them auction ready.”

Livestock coordinator Mandy Clendenen said they had for auction 264 lambs, 42 goats and 33 rabbits.

The lambs brought in a total of $338,939.16, while goats fetched $34,431.19 and rabbits sold for a total of $14,850.

Emma Frey, a member of the Santa Rosa FFA, has been raising goats and rabbits for years. She had two goats going up for auction Saturday afternoon. She said earlier in the day she wasn’t worried because she already had buyers lined up to buy them for $10 a pound. She was more concerned about saying her goodbyes to the animals.

“It’s all I do,” Frey, 15, said about caring for the animals.

“This year, I’m not as sad. I made sure I didn’t grow attached,” she added before tearing up.

The supreme champion market goat was raised by fellow Santa Rosa FFA member Madison Ambrosini and sold for $13 a pound. Emily Eakins of Forestville 4-H raised the 4-H grand champion, while Alexis Fischer of Forestville 4-H raised the goat that sold for the highest price per pound.

Resources To Help

North Bay Suicide Prevention 24-hour hotline: 855-587-6373

NAMI Sonoma County warmline: 707-527-6655

Sonoma County Psychiatric Emergency Services: 707-576-8181

For information on Sonoma County support groups, call 707-527-6655 or go to namisonomacounty.org

Megan Binford of Tri-Valley 4-H raised the champion rabbit meat pen, which was sold for $1,850.

The animals auctioned off will head to the butcher. Buyers can keep the meat, donate it or resell it to the fair at market price and cover the difference.

Fair officials listed the lamb market value at $1.37 a pound. Goats came in at $1.75 a pound.

“It’s an inflated price, but it’s because we have the community support and they all see the extra work these kids put into their animals,” Beretta said.

Tomales FFA member Michael Edwards just hoped to break even with his two sheep, which he spent $40 a month to feed.

The 140-pound animals were purchased in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, which was a relief for the 17-year-old Bodega Bay resident who didn’t have buyers lined up prior to the bids opening. One buyer paid $1,400 for one of his lambs — or $10 a pound. Another buyer won the second lamb for $8.50 a pound.

“It’s definitely fun,” Edwards said of raising sheep. “It teaches you a lot of things — about responsibility and how to handle your money.”

You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 521-5458 or eloisa.gonzalez@pressdemocrat.com.

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