Thursday, March 12, 2020

Free Lunch? That's a Bunch of Bull

There's no such thing as a free lunch.

Oh, we didn't shell out any money as we went through the line and picked up our BBQ beef sandwich, chips and cookie at the Poland Angus Farm bull sale. (It was very tasty, by the way.)

And they wouldn't have made us pay if we hadn't purchased a bull at the sale.

But we did. So it was not a free lunch.

In these days of Google, I wondered where the idiom "free lunch" had originated. Who knew TANSTAAFL was an actual acronym.
The concept of TANSTAAFL is thought to have originated in 19th-century American saloons where customers were given free lunches with the purchase of drinks. ... So the saloons purposely offered free lunches with the expectation that they would generate enough revenue in additional drinks to offset the cost of the lunch. 
I think the concept works out OK for bull sales, too.
No. 45 came home with us.

Here's what the sale book said about No. 45:
Another Peyton son that will work on heifers that hits all the numbers.
The verbiage wasn't as effusive as some of the other descriptions, so I guess that's why we didn't pay top dollar. (If our notes are right, the top amount paid that day was $10,000.)
The free lunch wasn't the only fringe benefit. There was an awfully cute greeter as we pulled into the Barber County farmstead.
There were no parking valets, but there was plenty of room in the "parking lot."
When we arrived, we took a sashay through the honored guests.
Based on numbers listed in the sale book, Randy had marked several bulls he was interested in.
He was not alone in his perusal of his sale book or in looking at them in person. It's not just a beauty contest, though looking for 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. He will use this new bull with heifers, so the birth weight is important for first-time mothers.

The weaning weight EPD - or expected progeny difference - on this bull is 72 pounds above the breed's average weight. The yearling weight EPD is 122 pounds above the breed's average weight. So, theoretically, the bull produces offspring that gain well in the first year. He had good milk EPDs, which should make the females he sires good replacement mamas who will make plenty of milk for their calves.

I always take several photos in the bull pens, hoping that I'll end up with a photo of the guy we end up with. But Randy had quite a few marked this time, so my pen photos of No. 45 were not glamour shots, though I did catch his profile in a frame or two.
After our "free lunch," Randy continued to look at the updates and read the sales book. I read my mystery.

And then it was time. At this sale, the bulls don't come into the arena. Instead, they are shown on a video screen. Three bid takers gave attention to the crowd while the auctioneer chanted his spiel. 
Here was No. 45's brief appearance as a TV star. 
After the auction, we were first in line to retrieve our purchase. If you haul it yourself, there's a small discount. Buyers also got a discount if they were repeat customers. We were.
Once home, the other bulls checked out their new pen mate. Since there are no ladies to impress at the moment, there were no fights - just curiosity.
We don't plan to sell any bulls this year unless they don't pass their "job interview" with Dr. Bruce, our veterinarian, later this spring.

On our way to the bull sale, we made a slight detour and took four heifers who'd lost calves to the Pratt sale barn. 
That required sorting them from the mamas and babies. Randy insists we don't have a Mickey Mouse operation, even though he used stationary that might dispute that. (He knows that I have no memory for numbers, so he makes me a list before we ever start. It keeps everyone happier.)
As we waited to unload, Randy queried, "I wonder if we'll make enough money selling the heifers to pay for the bull?"
I told him there was a flaw in his theory, since we had been raising and feeding those heifers since they were born in the winter of 2018.
We bid $3,750 for the bull, but ended up paying closer to $3,512 after the discounts for hauling and as repeat customers. The heifers ended up bringing $3,585 at the sale barn the next day - $930/head.
Now, if you don't figure pesky things like feed costs, transportation, labor, etc., Randy can feel good. Shhh! Don't burst his bubble.


  1. Just love it but, I'll comment that you are down 4 heifers!
    Sure hope No 45 does his job well.

    1. Yes, but we also have 25 new heifers we are feeding that will become mothers for the first time next January/February. It's constantly evolving. (I just have to give Randy a hard time. It's in my job description.)