4-H clubs meet online as activities continue

Calves will be sold through an online auction, and members will learn how to conduct meetings using social media apps

For 4-H members, their motto “learn to do by doing” may have to temporarily change to “learn to do by zooming.”

With the suspension of Alberta 4-H activities until May 31, many 4-H clubs have met using the meeting app Zoom, and some clubs are planning online auctions of their calves instead of the traditional show and sale.

“4-H is still going to happen,” said Lakedell 4-H Beef club leader Kyley Denschikoff.

With the Lakedell club, located in central Alberta,the 17 steer calves were to be sold online with photos and videos of the calves shown during the auction.

The calves were scheduled to be dropped off at VJV’s Ponoka auction market at staggered times April 27 to ensure social distancing. The calves were to be weighed and judged, and then at 2 p.m., they were to be auctioned in the order of how they were judged. Member videos and photos of the calf are shown while their calf is sold.

“It’s a different year, but I want our kids to be recognized for the work they did,” said Denschikoff.

Without showmanship, grooming or other competitions during sale day, the club has turned the new reality into a learning project. Each member was given a list of previous buyers, sponsors and family members to call about the new format as one more public speaking project.

They are also turning the videos that will be shown during the sale into a marketing competition.

“This is all good practice for the 4-H members,” she said.

As well as the promotional video competition, the club will have other fun categories, including the best blooper category.

“The kids are sad they are not having a traditional show, but they are very excited about videoing and making their online videos,” she said.

Members have learned how to participate and run club meetings using the Zoom app.

“It’s run exactly the same with the president in charge. If you want to make a motion, you type in the comment bar. It was really good,” she said.

Craig Jacklin, president of the Ponoka beef club and VJV’s operation manager, said they realized quickly 4-H sales would not be able to continue as usual and bought a subscription to a timed auction program to facilitate the 4-H sales.

Instead of buyers sitting in the auction stands, buyers bid online with a variety of sale endings. Clubs like Lakedell wanted a live auctioneer to facilitate the online sale.

The Ponoka 4-H Beef Club and others will be using VJV’s timed auction, which allows customers to bid on different lots once a clock starts. As the price increases on one lot, bidders can move on to a different lot that may be in their price range. The clock can be reset if bidding is still active and the clock is running out of time. This is intended to stop someone jumping in at the last second and placing a bid just before the time runs out.

The timed auction can be used in all five VJV markets in Alberta and Dawson Creek, B.C., he said.

“VJV has the ability to help kids out because we all have kids in 4-H, we bought a yearly subscription for this,” said Jacklin.

“We’re trying to do what we can. We are doing it to assist through this terrible situation.”

Kelly Weleschuk, leader of the Vegreville 4-H Beef Club, said with so many young junior members they chose to forgo the auction and sell the members’ steers by the pound. Five days after posting the new achievement day sale program, seven of the 12 calves were already sold.

“It’s a learning experience for everybody. Never in my life would I have thought we would have to sell animals like this,” said Weleschuk.

Instead of the traditional club show and sale they are offering the club’s steer calves for sale for $3.75 per lb. after slaughter.

“You can purchase full, half and quarter packages. The buyer will be responsible for the processing, which will happen at the end of May,” wrote Weleschuk on her Facebook page.

Along with the new sale information was a picture of the members and their calves, or just a picture of the steer.

Knowing not every member, parent, or buyer, will be happy with the clubs’ decisions, 4-H Alberta recognized the possibility of dissent and posted a series of frequently asked questions on the website.

“Clubs need to strive to meet the needs of the members, keeping in mind that not everyone can be satisfied. This is not an ordinary year for 4-H and the next few months will look different.”

There were 77 show and sale days planned among the 320 clubs in the province.

Ken Holowath, show committee chair in the central eastern district, said they haven’t finalized their show that was set for June 1. They are looking at the possibility of postponing the show and sale for a couple weeks, or simply selling the 11 market steers and five lambs privately.

“My personal thoughts are that we shouldn’t have a show,” he said.

“We haven’t finalized this, nor talked to our industry supporters. I don’t think these people will be in any position to spend money on a 4-H animal.”

In his area of Rumsey, Rowley, Delia and Morrin, the car dealerships are key in supporting the grand and reserve champions, but Holowath said members can’t expect the same support when few vehicles are being sold.

“We need to chalk it up to a life lesson.”

Louise Liebenburg, sheep leader of the Coyote Acres 4-H Multi-Club near High Prairie Alta., said they will also sell their market steers and lambs by private treaty for $3.50 per lb. after slaughter.

Club members approached previous buyers and have already secured sales for all their animals.

“We wanted to keep the price to a minimum with the market conditions to reflect that we understand the times are hard for everyone,” said Liebenburg of High Prairie.

Members will hold a virtual show by submitting a two-minute video of them showing and setting up their animal, similar to a real achievement day. A panel of judges will judge the videos and award buckles and ribbons.

Liebenburg said the new format is difficult for the new members who won’t experience a traditional achievement day.

“It’s hard to get the 4-H feeling and excitement of the show. Members who have done it before are taking it in stride.”

As the sheep leader, Liebenburg tries to keep the members engaged by asking them to send in the weight of their animal each week. In return, she sends crosswords and other activities to help them stay engaged.

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