Irish Blessing

Irish Blessing

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Fancy Hair and Good and Green

I'm sure Kermit the Frog would like to be described as having "fancy hair" and being "good and green."

But you might not think about those phrases also describing feeder cattle coming through the sale barn  at Pratt Livestock last week. Other descriptors included:
  • "You'll love the kind, gentlemen."
  • "Broke to the bunk."
  • "These beauties are hot-wire broke."
  • "They had everything in the world done to 'em and are ready to go." 
  • "Look at these, fellas, and their big sisters are coming right behind." 
(For the uninitiated, "green" cattle are those who were brought to the sale barn after grazing on wheat or rye. They aren't Kermit's color. Ours weren't green, but they were broke to the bunk.)
A visitor to the sale barn may need an interpreter, since it seems the auctioneer is sometimes speaking in a foreign language. But, the guys in the cowboy hats and seed company caps know the code. And at the end of the day, some of those guys bought the feeder calves we'd brought from the County Line.

Cattle Sale from Kim Fritzemeier on Vimeo.

We sold yearlings about a month earlier than we normally do. Randy made that decision because we had less silage and hay to feed than we sometimes do. In addition, after a reconnaissance mission to the sale barn the week before, he thought prices seemed good.
We sold a total of 79 head. The average price per pound was $1.51. Even though we sold them 30 days earlier than last year and they weighed 50 pounds less per head, they brought about $160 more per calf.

The sale itself is a one-day event. But it represents a lifetime of work, beginning when Randy joined 4-H. In high school, he bought a cow, and it produced a calf each year. Then, when he was a junior at K-State in 1977, he bought 35 cows and began renting the Ninnescah pasture, where we still take cow-calf pairs each spring. It was the true beginning of his cow-calf herd.

Much the same, the journey with this crop of feeder calves didn't start and end on one day in February. The calves were born on the County Line more than a year ago, and we have been caring for them ever since.
First baby of 2017 - January 2017
In March, we ran the babies through the working chute, making the bull calves into steers and getting them ready to go to pasture.

In April, we moved the Class of 2017 and their mamas to summer pastures, including No. 700 and buddies.
They stayed at their appointed pastures all summer. (Note #773 in the middle below. His face must have caught my eye throughout the year, since I have photos at various stages of  his life, including three more below in this post!)
We brought them back closer to the farm in November.
Like wellness checks for we humans, the calves had a doctor's appointment, too.
Dr. Dick and his assistant, Liz, gave vaccinations.

Number 773 waits for its turn in the working chute. The calves do quite a bit of growing between their birth and the sell date.
That's because we feed them silage, grain and hay once they arrive home from the pasture.
Don't talk with your mouth full, No.  705!
Last week, we rounded up the feeder calves and sorted off 25 heifers to keep. They'll be first-time mothers in 2019. And the rest went through the sale barn on February 1. They were among some 3,000 head of cattle sold at Pratt Livestock that day. (The prior week, Pratt Livestock had 5,000 head sold at their Thursday sale.)
The sale ends one chapter. (And we've since paid off an operating loan with the proceeds, so the bank is happy, too.)

The next chapter has already begun with a new crop of 2018 calves.
First calf of the Class of 2018
And the journey continues.


  1. Nice to read that prices were up on last year. That is always a good thing! Doing some sums comparing beef prices Aus$/kg to your US$/pound - our beef prices are much higher at the moment. Our beef prices usually follow the US market so I guess we can expect them to fall within the next 12-18months.

    1. I got my numbers wrong in the conversion! Your price is actually higher than ours. I was worried we were heading downward... but we may be heading a bit higher. That's good!

    2. I will leave you to do the math! It's not my strong suit. Randy was pleased with the prices, especially since we sold a month early.

  2. Kim,

    Hope calving season is going well. Cure Hereford header! We will start heifers the end of the month.

    Glad things went well on sale day and you are happy. We sold one load of steers off the cows and have all the rest of the calves. Time will tell what we do with them. If it rains we'll run them as yearlings and replacement heifers. No rain, we'll need to sell some cattle.

    Here is another sale barn term for you... cake broke. Around here that is an important trait, especially for those selling bred heifers.

    1. I haven't heard that one!

      My blog topper calf was a twin. He went to the sale barn, but he was too cute to pass up during his stay in the calving barn. (More on twins in this week's blog.)

      We are really dry (severe drought designation), so we are praying for rain, too!

  3. Another very insightful post of life on a Kansas farm.
    My mind is always boggled by the auctioneering process. We attended a sheep and cattle auction when visiting Frank's family in Ireland. Throw in the Irish accent and I was totally confused. It did help that they had a screen with the results.
    I just love the eating habits of calf 705.

    1. That would be interesting to go to an auction in another country. I really would need an interpreter there! We, too, have a screen behind the auctioneer and clerk.

      Yes, No. 705 has a love affair with food - kind of like me!