Friday, March 14, 2014

High rollers at the cattle auction

The crowd at the United Producers sale barn on Saturday. Notice the dog at the left.
The crowd at the United Producers sale barn. Notice the dog at the left.
Susan Mires here to tell you about a recent adventure The air in the sale barn was filled with more than the aroma of cattle. A sense of anticipation hung over the crowd and a sort of energy as they took seats early, eager to see just what would happen. The cattle market is - in the words of one analyst - crazy. Drought and an early freeze have caused the smallest herd of beef cattle in many years. As a result, prices for all kinds of cattle are at record highs. I went to visit my dad recently and tagged along when he went to the cow sale at the sale barn near home.

Dad had sold a few calves recently, receiving the highest price he'd ever gotten for a calf. In true farmer fashion, he wanted to put the money back into buying more mother cows to have more calves. Fifteen minutes before sale time, the curved benches of the sale arena started filling up. Nodody wanted to miss this because it felt like just about anything could happen. I sat among those hard-working men who were dressed in brown duck coveralls and muddy boots and thought of a recent visit with a crop farmer. He said you had to be an optimist in this business, otherwise you'd never put seed in the ground.

There was a lot of optimism at the sale barn and it became clear I was rubbing elbows with some high-stakes gamblers. In a matter of minutes, one man spent $137,000 on 55 head of Red Angus heifers. I overheard one guy on his cell phone, I imagine talking to his wife, say: "They're high. It's scary." But his tone suggested it was also a lot of fun.

 There was also this row of adorable future farmers.
Learning young
Learning young.

 The last cow of the sale, a nice three-year-old black Angus cross, was bought by an eternal optimist - my dad, 94-year-old Hugh Mires of Maryville.

It also inspired me to do something I've never tried before. I uploaded this video to You Tube. If you've never heard a livestock auction, it's interesting to hear how the high rollers do business. If you have been to a sale, you'll enjoy the familiar cadence.

I was very careful not to scratch my nose for fear I'd bid and spend a year's salary. I stood in line for Dad and wrote the check to the cashier, so for a moment I felt like a big spender. You could say that I'm all hat and no cattle, until I can work up the nerve to join the high rollers.

Have you ever bought anything at an auction? 

~ Susan Mires


  1. Susan, I loved your post! I have been to a few cattle auctions with my husband and even though I have decided I have had my fill, it is something to see. With the men calmly sitting around waiting for the action to begin, the bidding begins.
    I always get nervous at auctions when I have been the bidder but if you want something bad enough...up goes your hand.

    1. You are so right, Melanie! I always let my dad do the bidding. But one time I was at a farm auction and a handmade quilt was selling for just a few dollars. So I bid - and I won! I can see how a person can get addicted to auctions.

  2. I went to a quarter horse sale once, saw a mare bring a $125,000. Blew my mind. lol I've been to a few auctions and love the excitement of bidding. And I've had to be careful about scratching my nose, too.