Tess Douglass was no rookie at Saturday's annual Mother Lode Fair Junior Livestock Auction. The 17-year-old Sonora Future Farmers of America member has sold steers at the past seven livestock auctions.

"It's a lot of fun. It's the only thing we do only once a year," Douglass said, waiting in the livestock barns with friend and Columbia Prospectors 4-H member Stephanie Weaver, 17, for their appointments at the auction block.

Douglass and Weaver show beef cattle at competitions around the state all year, but sell only at the Mother Lode Fair.

The friends' steers were two of 182 animals sold at the auction, which took in $220,065. That breaks last year's record of $218,564.

Both girls fared well: Douglass' 1,348-pounder turned out to be the fair's FFA Champion Beef steer. Weaver's, at 1,304 pounds, was the Reserve Supreme Champion Beef steer. The two friends were sure they'd make their money back.

"The prices are so good right now," Douglass said.

Beef went for an average of $2.99 a pound, grossing $63,467.

Most competitors buy their animals in the fall for $600 to $800. Feed costs up to $600. After taking care of animal expenses, most hope to make a little extra money for themselves, Douglass and Weaver said.

"But we put most of our money back into feed or buying more steers," Douglass said. "We don't go blow it on stuff."

Douglass remembers a time she had a little extra and thought about replacing her older car with a new one.

"But I bought four steers instead," she said.

This year, Douglass said, she had hoped to get about $2 a pound for her animal. That would put close to $6,000 in her wallet, after the fair's commission.

"That would be way more than I need right now," Douglass said.

Bob and Lois Martin of Arnold have bought six of Douglass's steers at past fairs. They even paid $6 a pound one year.

"She's a good kid," Bob said.