Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A New Hire at The County Line

Every day across corporate America, business people in pressed suits gather around conference tables for meetings. They gather to make decisions designed to advance their companies, to increase profits, perhaps, even to make a difference in the world.

Some may arrive after a subway ride. Others hopped on a train from a suburb to a towering skyscraper in a sea of tall buildings. Others may have grabbed a taxi or a Lyft or an Uber for their trip from Point A to Point B.
The meetings may look a little different in the middle of a Kansas farmstead. While those city commuters may be dodging people and traffic, the country meeting attendee may need to strategically avoid a cow pie or two after stepping out of their transportation for the day - a pickup hooked to a mud-splashed cattle trailer.

But the decisions made in those dirt lots also impact the future of businesses. Choosing a new "employee" requires research and making informed choices - whether in a boardroom or a straw-covered cattle lot.
Randy and I attended the Carcass Plus Bull Sale last Wednesday at Poland Angus Ranch near Isabel. Angus bulls from the Polands as well as CB Farms at Preston were offered for sale. 
Before we arrived, Randy had gone through the sales catalog, circling bulls that fit his criteria. He was looking for an Angus bull he could use for breeding to our heifers, who will be first-time mamas in 2020. So he was looking for a bull who would produce lower birth weight calves and calving ease characteristics.
As we walked through the lots, Randy referred to his sale catalog for the particulars and made notes on some of the animals he was interested in.
Ironically, the first bull I photographed that day was the one who eventually went home with us - Lot 12, aka PAR 613 Product 867.

It was one of those Randy had circled at home, but he wanted to look them over before the sale started. And we had to arrive in time for our dinner date. It was free if you don't count the price of the bull. That counts as free to a farmer - just like "free" caps when you buy a tractor (wink, wink).
Along with my barbecue beef sandwich, I chose a shamrock sugar cookie. A little luck is never a bad thing when it comes to bidding at an auction. 
Neither is bringing a book to pass the time between the lunch and the bidding. Randy read the catalog. I read my book.
This sale was a little different from the last two I've attended. Instead of bringing the bull into a sale ring, each appeared on television screens for bidding.
Here's Lot 12 during his time on the auction block. Here's what it said about him in the catalog:
This deep-sided 613 son has really good Wn (weaning) and Yr (yearling) ratios. Couple that with his top 15% for marbling, it makes him a really good prospect for siring high-marbling calves that will bring you a premium on the rail.
Though the bulls are getting the once over from interested buyers, it's not just a beauty contest, though correct conformation for each breed is one factor in the decision-making process. While Randy looks for bulls that produce smaller birth weight calves, he's also looking for those whose progeny have higher 205-day weaning weights and yearling weights.
Genetics should provide a progressive weaning weight and yearling weight. For Lot 12, the EPD - or expected progeny difference - at weaning is 57 pounds above the average Angus weight. The yearling weight EPD is 103 pounds above the average. Its numbers also ranked above average for meat marbling and ribeye area. He had good milk EPDs, which should make the females he sires good replacement mamas who will make plenty of milk for their calves.

This bull was born on Veteran's Day of 2017, so he's a little more a year old. He now weighs around 1,200 pounds.

For the past several years, we've used a Hereford bull with our heifers. But to add genetic diversity to our cattle herd, Randy opted for an Angus bull for the heifers for this upcoming breeding season. If you want to get all technical, it's a matter of heterosis, "the marked vigor or capacity for growth exhibited by crossbred animals," (according to the dictionary).

We paid $3,500 for him, minus a $50 discount for picking him up and hauling him ourselves on the day of the sale. 
Once we got him home, he strolled the entire perimeter of the lot to check out his new "digs."
Initially, he was by himself in the lot, but after he got out, Randy put another calf in the pen with him to keep him company. We hope that cures his loneliness and keeps him "home" and content until he begins his job this spring.


  1. Love those small calves! We used a Jersey for our first calf heifers, and though some would say it was a wasted lactation (we chose not to raise them because of crowding issues in our barn) but we we thrilled with the ease of calving for the young heifers! All it took was a few difficult calvings to Holstein bulls that made up our minds.
    He looks like a happy camper!!
    Btw...we will be heading out through Kansas in a few weeks on a long awaited road trip. We'll have to wave as we pass by your area!!

    1. Will you just be at Hesston visiting your daughter or will you take in more of the state? I hope the weather cooperates for your visit.

    2. We're taking a long overdue vacation, and travelling as far west as Colorado...visiting Jenna at Hesston and then heading to western Kansas (Sharon Springs) to visit my brother in law's folks on our way to my aunt's house in Ft Collins CO! We are hoping we don't get caught in a late mid-western visit!

  2. What a different sale to last years. I love the 'freebies' and discount. Congratulations on his purchase and your creative writing style.
    Happy St Pat's Day.

    1. This was the first time I'd gone to this particular sale, though Randy has been other times.