Day at the Livestock Auction


Getting three cows bred this summer means there will be three calves (hopefully!) in the spring. I’m planning to keep girls–I want more breeders. If there’s just one bull calf, I want to keep that, too, for future beef. It will be turned into a steer. But if there’s more than one boy, it’s going to mean taking it to the sale. With that in mind, I was curious to start researching and learning more about it, so on Saturday, we took a trip to the livestock auction in Ripley, which is about an hour away. We arrived in my Impala, and we didn’t exactly fit in with everything else in the parking lot.
Everybody probably thought we were city slickers.
I thought this bull was the prettiest cow at the auction. He might have been some kind of mix, but he had a Jersey-like face. I’ve never been to a livestock auction before, so I was excited. We strolled along the catwalks looking down at the animals.
I forgot to bring my camera (WHAT?!) so I didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked since I only had my cell phone for photos.
But. Here’s what I learned from the day. First, cow dogs are really cool. I’m not sure what breed the dogs were (Corgis? maybe) but they clearly loved their job chasing the cows out of the arena and back to the pens. Second, auctions are confusing and it’s hard to tell who is bidding, but the auctioneer obviously knows. Some people bid just by a nod or lifting a finger. (I did see one bidder give another bidder The Finger, which was entertaining.) And most of all, that prices were in the reverse order I expected. The younger calves, 300-500 pounds, were going for $2-3/pound, while the older calves and on up to grown cows were going for $1-2/pound. This is a generalization because some cows went for more or less, but. That was the basic lesson. You can grow a calf longer, so it has more weight, but the sale price per pound goes down. If you’re over-wintering them and buying hay, it’s not worth it. If I sell a calf next year, I’ll sell it before hay time.

They were selling out a man’s entire farm–he’d been injured and apparently couldn’t farm anymore–so there were a lot of cows from one farm, mostly black Angus. And, of course, other cows from other farms, and still mostly black Angus. But, there were Herefords and other assorted cows mixed in there, and the auctioneer never stated what breed any of the cows were, which I would have appreciated. There was one little bottle baby bull calf. He sold for $200 and if I’d even had a bid card, I would have been tempted to bid on him and take him home in the back of the Impala!
But I didn’t. (The above photo was taken during the intermission. They left the little bull calf running around the arena since he was next up after the break.)

We stayed for the entire auction. They went through all the young cows, then on to bouncing baby goats and sheep and one pretty pony and a couple of pigs, then back to cows. Bred cows, cow/calf pairs, bulls, steers, and then, sadly, the old girls.

They reminded me of BP. They wandered in, slowly, in no hurry for where they were headed, bony and limping, rode hard and put up wet. Some of them were beef girls, and several were Holsteins. All of them had udders nearly dragging the ground. They’d put in their time, had all the babies they could pop out, and now their future was in a hamburger package.

I’m glad I had BP and that she didn’t end up at a livestock auction at the end of her days.

I’m never taking an old girl to an auction.

At the same time, I realize I have a very small farm. And that in larger operations, that’s pretty much what has to be done.

But the next time I go to an auction, I’m not staying til the end when they bring out the old, tired girls.

I didn’t like it.

Some days I’m not really cut out to be a farmer.

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on August 3, 2015  

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10 Responses | RSS feed for comments on this post

  1. 8-3

    I am glad you were able to allow BP to live out her days on your farm.

  2. 8-3

    I understand about the ‘old girls’. My chickens will probably die of old age and have a proper funeral when the time comes because although I know how to butcher, I’m just not sure I could eat one after raising it. We are slowly but surely getting through the pig that came with our house purchase last year, butchered early this year, but very slowly! At least we’ve been enjoying salad tomatoes all summer from the scraps my daughter brought home from the café where she works and we’ll soon have cantaloupe and honeydews that came up in the pig pen as well!

    I had to laugh about your Impala! When I was a kid, my mom was always buying bottle calves and hauling them home in her 1962 and 1963 Mercury Comets! One at a time, of course. We ended up with around 20 nice hefty cows thanks to those cars! Who needs a truck when you got a trunk?! I think she got out of the ‘cow hauling business’ when she got a station wagon. LOL!

  3. 8-3

    I thought this bull was the prettiest cow.

    LOL. Sorry… couldn’t resist. It really did make me laugh out loud.


  4. 8-3

    I know a few farmers with tender hearts. Never stop being one of them.

  5. 8-3

    I dont know how one can take an animal that they had for a long time and hopefully cared about to be sold off knowing what their end would be, glad to hear you say you would not stay for that part of an auction, good for you!

  6. 8-4

    Awww… Susanne…. this was a sad entry and made me cry. :( Auctions are just sad to begin with. Then when I read about BP, that was it… I started to cry. She was SO fortunate YOU got her. I think about her quite often.. precious BP. MY darling horse, Jami, came from an auction. I told this man that regularly went to auctions, what I wanted and he brought her back to me. I always think… what a WONDERFUL, perfect horse she was for me and what might have happened to her if I didn’t buy her… Wondered what her past was… She would STOP, her nostrils would get huge, and she’d whinny real loud, when she saw a tractor. (So adorable)I rode her almost every day, took such loving care of her, hugged and kissed her to pieces (which she wasn’t use to!) and we had such fun adventures together. I was SO blessed to have her. She died from colic about 7 years after I got her. I miss her and still think of her every day…. Oh, and she was a beautiful dappled grey beauty.
    I’m sure there ARE times you wish you weren’t a farmer… I can relate. You have a very tender heart… You make such a difference in your animals lives. Look what you did for BP… She in return made a difference in your life! What a blessing… Awww….. HUGS to you. BY the way, how is your ankle? Was it just sprained?

  7. 8-4

    I’m surprised you got to take any pictures. Oftentimes sale barns don’t allow them. PETA and ASPCA and all that.
    When I went to horse sales, it was just for tack. Couldn’t afford and didn’t have room for all the horses I wanted to rescue, so I just left before they sold.

  8. 8-4

    Auctions make me cry. My animals tend to be rescues. I’m a schmuck. :heart:

  9. 8-4

    It was my knee. It had fluid on it. It’s finally much better!

  10. 8-8

    I’ve been to many of those auctions and yes they are sad especially when you have no choice and the cows are yours. Reality checks are bummers!

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