By FRANK PHILLIPS
They are like three peas in a pod with nearly perfect fur and lots of meat on their bones.
What are they? They are rabbits raised and selected for a rabbit meat pen entry that not only made it to the Indiana State Fair, but were selected as the Grand Champion Meat Pen on Tuesday.
The proud owner is Joey Dierdorf, son of Joe and Diane Dierdorf of Clay County.
"I was shocked," Joe said Thursday morning in a telephone interview on his way back to the state fair. "I didn't know what to say. I was so happy."
In recent years, the Grand Champion Meat Pen has brought $4,250-$5,000, Joey's father, Joe Dierdorf, said. The record is around $15,000.
Dad plans to encourage bidding by calling the various manufacturers that contributed to the winning rabbits' growth -- such as the company that manufactured the feed used by Joey Dierdorf.
"It's good advertising for them," Joe said.
He hopes that with a heads up, the manufacturers will work to outbid one another and drive up the price of Joey's meat pen.
Joey plans to buy another goat (which he also raises) or put the money from the auction into his college fund.
It's hard to say who is more excited -- Joey or his father.
"It's probably the most exciting thing I've ever gone through," Dad said.
The rabbit meat pen consists of three rabbits, 3-5 pounds each, not over 70 days old.
The pen is judged on meat, uniformity of weight and the appearance of the rabbits' fur.
"You have to breed the bucks to the does (rabbits) and pick out the three from the litter that are the most alike," Dad said Thursday. "It's an art. The biggest thing is luck."
Joey picked the three rabbits for his meat pen Tuesday.
The hot weather did not facilitate raising rabbits this summer. The animals did not eat as much as they usually would and that meant there was less nutrition than normal.
There were 42 meat pen entries Wednesday. Each rabbit in each pen has to be weighed and examined individually as well as together by the judge. Judging began at 9:15 a.m. and concluded at 12:30 p.m.