I'm always a little self-conscious at the sale barn. Yes, I'm in the minority among the male-dominated room. But that's not it.
I've got this fear that the auctioneer will mistake my hand actions for a bid. I wouldn't want to scratch my nose or flick a fly and end up with cattle to take home.
That's what a Daddy told a little boy sitting by me last Thursday. Between taking bites of a chocolate cookie, the little guy was pointing out cattle as they entered the ring. I was impressed when he turned to his dad and said, "See that Charolais?" But his Dad told him to keep the hand gestures to a minimum.
Do I really think the auctioneer would consider that a capri-jeans-wearing farm wife is bidding? Did the auctioneer really think a 4-year-old with a chocolate grin would be picking up a load of cattle? No, to both questions. But neither of us wanted to get in a bidding war with the cowboy-hatted and booted cattle buyers.
Besides, I was there to sell cattle, not buy them. We brought 105 calves to be auctioned at the Pratt Livestock sale barn. We don't usually sell calves until March, but the drought forced Randy to sell early. We don't have enough hay or silage to feed cows and calves all winter long.
This is the first time in Randy's 37 years of farming that he's sold calves in the fall. But we'll use what feed we have to keep our cows fed this winter. They will produce the next calf crop in February.
Usually, we keep some replacement heifers from the year's calf crop to replace cows that we cull because of their age or because they've lost a calf. This year, we didn't keep any of the heifers, so in 2013, we won't have heifers to calve out in January (unless Randy buys some between now and then.)
Even though it's not an ideal situation, Randy was pleased with the sale. The calves averaged 518 pounds each, better than he anticipated after a summer short of quality grass in pastures. The heifers brought $1.30 a pound and the steers brought $1.40.
Some Oklahoma and Texas cattle producers had to sell their whole herds this summer due to the drought. So we are fortunate we still have cows at home.
And I'm fortunate that my flicking of pesky flies did not result in hauling any unwanted cattle home. As far as I know, my chocolate-eating friend also escaped the sale ring without having to write a check.