Sunflower State

Sunflower State

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Sold! (On a Very Cold Day)

My husband is a glass-half-full kind of guy. It's a good quality in a farmer ... and a husband.
Last Thursday morning, with the temperature around 0-degrees F and a wind chill dipping even lower, we were on our way to the Pratt Livestock sale barn to sell feeder calves. We drove past trees and fences draped with the sleet that had fallen the night before amidst crashes of thunder and flashes of lightning that sounded more like spring than winter. The thin layer of ice on the county roads had us slipping and sliding a few times. I kept worrying about whether cattle buyers would even show up. It was the coldest sale day Randy can remember, and he's been doing this since high school.

And in the midst of my concerned musings, Randy said, "Well, at least they have buyers on the internet these days!" Yep, like I said, he's an eternal optimist. For the record, some buyers showed up in person, too. Maybe they preferred the warmth of the sale barn arena to being out scouting for cattle in a feedlot somewhere.
Compared to 2018, the price was down about 10 cents per pound. Our calves were a little lighter in weight than last year, too. With the colder and wetter weather, they didn't gain quite as well.

But the 70 feeder calves we sold averaged $1.45 a pound.
It takes only minutes for our cattle to go through the ring and have the auctioneer declare, "Sold!" But 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 calf of the Class of 2018
Last March, we ran the babies through the working chute, making the bull calves into steers and getting them ready to go to pasture.
Calves born to heifers already had ear tags, but the ones born to older cows got their ear tags and their first round of vaccinations as they went through the chute.
In May, we moved the Class of 2018 and their mamas to summer pastures ...
Some went to the Rattlesnake pasture, where our family has had cattle for more than 100 years.
Others went to the Ninnescah pasture.
 They stayed at their appointed pastures all summer with their moms.
Then, in November, we brought them back closer to the farm. We were two weeks behind schedule because of muddy conditions.
After they arrived home from the pastures, they were weaned from their moms.
Like wellness checks for humans, the calves had a doctor's appointment, too. Dr. Figger gave them another round of vaccinations.
We fed them silage, grain and hay until we shipped them to the sale barn.

Back in November, Dr. Figger calfhood vaccinated the females that would potentially be kept for breeding. (More on calfhood vaccinations at the County Line can be found in this previous blog post.)
Then, last week, we sorted the steers from the heifers. Once we had the females in one place, Randy chose the 25 heifers he wanted to keep. Another 26 went to the sale barn, along with 44 steers.
He treated the heifers we retained with a lice control pour-on before sending them back out to the pasture to keep eating silage, hay and grain. They'll be there until it's time to go to summer pasture once again in May. They'll be first-time mothers in 2020.

The remaining females and the steers went through the sale barn on February 7. They were among some 2,500 head of cattle sold at Pratt Livestock that day.

The sale ends one chapter. (And we've since paid off an operating loan with the proceeds, so the bank is happy, too.)
First calf of 2019
The next chapter has already begun with a new crop of 2019 calves. 
And the journey continues. It may only take a few minutes for cattle to go through the sale ring. But it represents a lifetime of work.


  1. I'm sure the bank isn't the only happy chappie with this outcome. Here's to a less stresssful year with the Class of 2019.

  2. I understand this one completely. I love that you made it to market even with everything thrown at you all this unusual weather year. Well done. Love your history.

  3. Rattlesnake pasture...hmmm...I'm assuming there must be some of those pesky creatures around! I love the little red calf in one of your last pictures! He/she looks quite pleased to be alive! Here's to a better year all around for farmers everywhere!

  4. Do all the pictured animals survive the winter spell or there is usually a special treatment for a particular type?