By Mary Spicer
WEST MEAD TOWNSHIP —
At just over $183 per pound, the cheese in the record-setting basket purchased from Blooming Valley 4-H Club member Patrick Carey during the 22nd Annual Crawford County 4-H Cheese Yield Auction isn’t quite the most expensive cheese in the world, but it’s right up there.
If a record-setting price wasn’t enough for dairy fans, the county’s dairy leaders also introduced a whole new event during cheese yield night — the first-ever Crawford County 4-H Dairy Beef Auction.
On the cheese front, Carey led his Supreme Champion Holstein, Plum-Line Aspen Karamel, at an elegant pace around the ring in the Crawford County Fair’s Youth Show Arena as an all-out bidding war raged around them late Thursday night. By the time the sawdust settled, the 9-pound basket had been sold for $1,650 to T.R. Shearer Ag & Landscaping of Carlton.
According to Chris Waddell of the auction committee, the basket set an all-time high for the event. It was, however, not the only basket to cross the four-figure line; in fact, baskets weighing in at 4.0, 5.1, 7.2 and 7.3 pounds each sold for $1,000, $1,025, $1,050 and $1,100, respectively.
Gourmet nibbling, however, is not what this auction is all about. In fact, the cheeses contained in the baskets are traditional varieties routinely found on family cheese trays, which is why it’s called a “cheese yield auction” instead of a “cheese auction.”
Members of 4-H clubs throughout the county maintain records detailing the milk production — yield — of each cow throughout the year. Entrants in the Cheese Yield Auction submit those records, which are used to calculate the number of pounds of cheese that could be produced from each cow’s daily milk production. Once the numbers are in, the required quantity of cheese is purchased and packaged and an assortment of blocks weighing in at the specific cow’s yield is placed in each basket.
On auction night, each 4-H member — 27 participated in this year’s event — carefully groomed their competing cow and led it around the ring accompanied by a third party — the bearer of the cheese basket. Under the direction of auctioneer C. Sherman Allen, the battle began. In the end, 4-H’ers take home both their cows and the money earned after the cost of the cheese is deducted.
This year’s baskets sold for a total of $21,175 averaging $784.
Where’s the beef?
A brand-new program — 4-H Dairy Beef — added a new element to this year’s cheese yield auction.
Bull calves born between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28 of this year were eligible. One hundred percent dairy breeding was required, with Holsteins preferred but Ayrshire, brown Swiss, Guernsey, Jersey, milking shorthorn and red & whites were also eligible. No crossbreeds were allowed. Each calf had to be steered and raised to show at the fair and all 4-H members raising dairy beef were required to participate in the showmanship contest for dairy beef.
All eight exhibitors participating in the dairy beef program were required to sell their animals during the dairy beef auction that followed the cheese yield auction.
Each buyer had a choice of taking the steer home to finish it out themselves or selling the animal to a group buyer who offered to buy any animals not taken home for a base price of $400 with the original buyer paying the difference between the winning bid and the base price. This year, half the buyers kept their steers and half sold to the group buyer.
The eight steers sold for a total of $5,500, averaging $694. The highest sale price, $1,000, was paid by Village Auto and went to Breanna Peters of Townville Champs 4-H Club for her Grand Champion Dairy Beef Steer, a Holstein named Cookie D. Monster.
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at email@example.com.