Monday, October 24, 2005

Animal auction focuses on exotic

Animal auction focuses on exotic

By DL Perrin Truth Correspondent

On the blockBeautifully colored birds like this Golden Red Pheasant were on the auction block at the Northern Indiana Fall Exotic Animal & Bird Auction at the Topeka Auction Barn this past weekend.Photo: DL Perrin / The Truth

TOPEKA -- One woman needs a skunk. A man in a cowboy hat is looking for a breeding pair of camels.

From alpacas to zebras, if it is an exotic animal and available for sale, you will most likely find a seller and a buyer at the bi-annual Northern Indiana Exotic Animal & Bird Auction.

Jacob Kurtz, who's had a lifelong fondness for unusual livestock, had been traveling as far as Ohio to buy and sell his animals. He knew there was a need for a place in Indiana where fans of unusual animals could buy, sell, talk shop or trade their favorite creatures.

More than eight years ago, according to the Topeka resident and longtime Topeka auction committee member, he suggested they dedicate one auction day a year to unusual animals. The exotic animal auction started out as a half day. It soon grew into a two-day event.

"I'm not a farmer but I had land and I have always liked animals that are different," Kurtz said. "It's fun to watch the cars drive by and, at first they slow down, then turn around and come back down the road to get a second look."

Kurtz isn't alone in his fondness for exotic birds and animals.

Daryl Blackman has been driving to the auction from Bloomingdale, Mich., for years. "I have my parents' farm now," Blackman said. "I don't farm now, but my parents raised beef and horses. Out of all the kids, I was the one that raised unusual animals -- no regular livestock for me."

Friday he was at the auction selling some Barbados sheep with magnificently curved mahogany horns. He also brought along a cage filled with doves. "It all starts from two," Blackman said. "The next thing you know, you have a couple of dozen."

Bob Bale, auction manager and auctioneer, said it is his job to post regulations and warn all participants about the laws regarding state and federal permits, vaccinations, inoculations and licenses for their animals. "The laws are constantly changing," Bale said. "We keep on top of all of the changes, but the end responsibility lies with the owners."

Blackman wants to expand his flock of sheep, so he is selling off a few rams and ewes and buying others to change the bloodline of his flock. Among other birds such as peacocks, he acquired homing pigeon pairs to breed so he can raise their young to "home" when they grow up. He says he might even look at a starter pair of emus.

Blackman said he doesn't raise any animals for food; his collection is a hobby gone wild.

He said he is glad there is a sale like Topeka twice a year. If he took his exotic sheep to a contemporary livestock auction he wouldn't expect to find any buyers. He knows he will find buyers in Topeka every year.