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      4-H members auction off livestock at Northwestern Michigan Fair

      The Northwestern Michigan Fair has been going on all week, but many people look forward to annual 4-H livestock auction.

      About 500 4-H members participate in the event every year, and they auction off everything from rabbits to cattle. Hundreds of buyers filled the barns at the Northwestern Michigan Fair Thursday to bid on any livestock that may have caught their eye.

      4-H members have taken care of their animals all year, and the auction is the day they find out what they're worth.

      â??We like to consider it like a small business for the kids, a mini small business,â?? said Darrel Robinson, Northwest Michigan 4-H Livestock Council President. â??The kids have to learn how to manage their projects, make sure it makes weight, how to market their projects and then turn around and sell it here at the auction.â??

      Animals are sold by the pound, usually somewhere between five and 10 dollars a pound. Most of the kids put that money they earn to good use.

      â??What we found is that most of the kids, actually 70-some percent of the kids, are using that money for college,â?? said Robinson. â??The remainder of the money they use to purchase animals for next year and to continue going in the project, the 4H program.â??

      Anyone can bid on the auctioned animals. Many family members bid and share the meat, and local businesses often attend to buy livestock for their stores or restaurants.

      â??You get to meet some really great people,â?? said participant Justin Wheelock. â??Everybody is nice. It's fun, nobody is there to bring you down, everybody is there to pick you up.â??

      The auction has been going on for 43 years, and each year it continues to grow.

      â??The growth is unbelievable for me because I just wanted to start it for my children,â?? said Northwest Michigan 4-H Founder George Whitefield. â??We got llamas, we got goats, we got young beef, what more do you want.â??

      Several businesses at the auction donate the animals they win to Goodwill for their Fill the Freezer program. Last year they received enough meat to last the Goodwill Inn through most of the year.

      Organizers said they think this could have been a record year for sales. Most animals were up about 75 cents a pound from last year.