BY MICHAEL WALTON
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Clarice Pahl's 1,300-pound red Angus steer named Bruno put on a little extra weight since the new year — about 600 pounds.
But that added girth should translate to cold, hard cash for Pahl during the Northwestern Michigan Fair, which begins today.
Pahl, 18, of Buckley, is one of dozens of 4-H club members who hope to sell their pigs, lambs, sheep, rabbits and more at the 4-H auction on Aug. 8, an event that's one of the week-long regional fair's main draws.
"It's so fun to see you and your friends succeed at the fair," said Pahl, a graduate of Buckley Community Schools who plans to attend Grand Valley State University this fall.
This year marks the second time Pahl raised a steer for the auction. Before that she always raised dairy cows.
Pahl was a bit timid about steers after seeing what can go wrong with the larger cattle. Two years ago, for example, a steer at the fair became spooked and badly injured one of Pahl's friends, an incident that landed him in the intensive care unit.
But she still decided to graduate to steers and hasn't regretted it.
"I just thought I needed to challenge myself, and the only way you can learn is from other people's mistakes," she said.
Darrell Robinson, president of the Northwestern Michigan 4-H Livestock Council, said youths can learn a lot by raising animals for the auction.
"They're young entrepreneurs learning how to raise a product, and then when it's done they have to market it and market themselves," he said.
Pahl bought Bruno late last year and has cared for him since. She feeds him twice daily, gives him plenty of exercise and trains him for the judging portion of the auction.
Pahl said a steer at auction can fetch between $2 and $4 per pound, sometimes more depending on judging results and buyers. She didn't want to predict how much Bruno might go for this year.
"I guess I'll find out when it comes market time," she said.
4-H member Allison King, 17, sent 24 letters to local businesses this year in an attempt to pique buyers' interest in her 4-month old sheep Ashkii.
She's also spent almost two hours on average every day feeding and training Ashkii.
"Sometimes they are very stubborn," King said. "That's why we have to work with them a lot."
During the fair this week King will bath Ashkii two or three times. The process takes 6 hours and it's all in an effort to impress judges and buyers.
The Aug. 8 auction begins at 9 a.m. Hundreds of buyers, both businesses and individuals, have purchased livestock at the fair in past years. Robinson corrected a common misconception held by many prospective new buyers.
"You're not bringing the animal home whole," Robinson said. "You send it to a processor and get it back in a box."
The Northwestern Michigan Fair runs through Aug. 10. A full schedule of the fair's activities is available at northwesternmichiganfair.net.