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Tanana Valley State Fair Livestock Auction Includes Reindeer

FAIRBANKS, Alaska-The Tanana Valley State Fair this year is home to an event that is likely the first of its kind in the nation: three 4-H members will show and sell reindeer at the fair's livestock auction.

The 4-H participants have worked under the guidance of Reindeer Research Program research coordinator George Aguiar.

"They've come a long way," he said. "They have dealt with broken antlers and facilities challenges. They have been ingenious."

The pilot project kicked off nearly a year ago when the research program, part of the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, donated reindeer to 4-H members who had been approved by a UAF committee. The UAF Cooperative Extension Service runs the state 4-H program. Assisting with the pilot project are the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Kawerak Reindeer Herders Association. Since the program's inception, Aguiar has offered classes, on-site visits and detailed instructions to the young farmers. Three 4-H participants, ages 13 to 17, are showing their animals at this year's fair.

While the program is beneficial to the teens, it is also good for UAF researchers, Aguiar said. "We are able to see how reindeer do in other environments, how they react to other animals including ducks goats horses, sheep and we learn more about the dynamics."

Greg Finstad, project manager, has approved plans to distribute four reindeer to a new crop of 4-H members and Aguiar is looking forward to another year, " "The kids are learning reindeer husbandry and gaining experiences to be successful in any livestock production operation. It has been a long process and the end result will be the auction, when we find out how high the demand for reindeer meat is and what it is worth to the buyers."

The auction is Friday, Aug. 14 at 6 p.m. at the fairgrounds. The reindeer are housed in the Delta Barn at the fairgrounds.

August 12, 2009

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