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Posted 12/15/10 (Wed)


Boy, the cattle market is making the news! Seems every couple of days there is a story about the record high prices. Which means we are slightly above what we received in 1973 and 1979! Wow! In forty years, we finally increased our pay by about five percent! I guess if you took the rate of inflation, we haven’t done too well.
Kind of like the guy who said that in 1970, it took twenty dry cows to buy a 1970 pickup. Now, thirty years later, you can still buy that 1970 pickup for twenty cows.
We all have different methods of marketing. Some guys sell off the cow. Some background their calves. Some contract their calves early. Some finish their calves. Some sell over the Internet. Some sell over video auctions.  Some load up and go to the local auction the first week in November. And never vary. Some have no idea what they are going to do. I fall into the latter group.
I’ve contracted, auctioned, backgrounded, fed, and held out for more. I’ve sold dollar calves for eighty cents and fat cattle for fifty. I’ve sold here and there and over the hill. I’ve hauled calves to Dickinson and Watford and Mobridge and Phillip and Faith and various other auctions. I’ve trailed them in and hauled them in. I’ve sold by size, weight, and color.
And every year, if I had gone a week earlier,  or a week later, I would have done better. You know how some guys are. If you’re buying calves, they will tell you that you should have been here last week. If you’re selling calves, they  will tell you that you should been here last week. You can’t win.
But, when the market is good, we know it will last forever. I know a guy that bought them high priced calves, to make yearlings out of, in the seventies. The next year, he couldn’t get his original investment back. So, he figured, instead of selling them at a big loss, and buying back a new set of calves, he would just keep the first ones another year. He sold them the following fall as two year old steers. And never got his original cost back! Now, that is tough!
One of my favorite shipping stories is this fella over by Flasher who was always on top of things. He would watch the markets like a hawk. He would gather early and make sure his cattle sold at “prime time” (this is the time when all sales ring operators tell everyone their calves will sell).
This one year, this guy loaded his calves the afternoon before the sale. He wanted them in early. The next morning, he and Ma loaded the kids and headed for Mandan for the cattle sale. They got there about noon and found a good seat ringside. And there they sat. Minute after minute. Hour after hour. Every time the door cracked open, they expected their calves to come in. Hundreds of others. Thousands. Darkness crept in.
Finally, Pa couldn’t take it anymore. He stormed into the office and demanded to know why his calves hadn’t sold at two o’clock. They checked the check-in sheet. No calves. None.
The trucker had taken them, by mistake, to McLaughlin the day before.
And sometimes, I think that would be best. Just load them up and tell the trucker to sell them. And wait for the check.
Heck, you wouldn’t even have to buy a round of drinks for the neighbors then!