Selling Calves at Auction – From Ranch to Market

Selling Calves at Auction – From Ranch to Market

October 9, 2019 100 By Luis Garrison


Hi I’m Mike and today is the one paycheck
of the year that the ranch gets, its sale day on our Wyoming life. As a farmer myself, the day that calves go
to auction is bitter sweet. Lots of work goes into the care little guys but I know that when they leave we’ve done a good job and its gonna keep the farm around for another year This is the circle of life, we provide for
them and they provide for us, in so many different ways I love watching the baby calves grow and when
it time to leave, it can be sad, but they are a part of a much bigger
picture, for us, and the world. This is our Wyoming life, we invite you to
come along with us 3 times per week as we explore the ranch life and escape the ordinary. We weren’t raised here on the ranch, we
weren’t farm kids, but life can sometimes throw you a curveball and we went from working
corporate jobs in the city, to working livestock and the land. My wife Erin takes you into the life of a
market gardener, supporting the ranch by growing thousands of pounds of produce per year, selling
it at farmers market. Fighting hunger and food insecurity by donating
it at local food banks, and community services, such as food pantries and Snap and WIC. On the ranch, I take you through all the aspects
of learning as we go, giving the good and bad and hopefully learning something about
ourselves and life on the way. Years ago when we came here, we had no idea
what we were doing, nor did we know what we were up against. Now I’m proud to say that we can share this
journey with you, and I am glad that you decided to come along, please subscribe as we invite
you to become a part of the ranch with us. Every day of the year on the ranch leads up
to these couple of days. And one day that can make or break the whole
place. A day that is some years makes it all worth
it and other years can leave you wondering if its worth it at all. Today is sale time, this year almost every
calf that was born on the ranch will be sold at auction, they will be sorted off from the
cows and loaded on to a truck and auctioned off to buyers. That’s the down and dirty, but there is
so much more to it then just that. There is blood, sweat and tears that all go
into supporting our family and feeding yours. Long before the big trucks show up in the
driveway, and even long before any new calves are born on the ranch, it all starts with
just a bull and a cow. Mating season on the ranch takes place from
July until September, cows are bred and then are expected to give birth about 9 months
afterwards. Timing is important, as we want calves to
be born in April and May when winter is subsiding and weather will hopefully be easier on them. We preg check cows, checking to see who is
pregnant and who isn’t, when they aren’t pregnant, we figure out why and decide what
needs to happen to them. Some will leave the ranch, some will be given
a second chance but when it come down to it, its about having the most and healthiest calves
we can from our herd. Over the winter, all the cows are fed well. Throughout the winter months their diets will
change, based on what stage of development the calf fetus is in. Earlier on they will receive more filling
diets then, added protein and supplements as they reach the end of their pregnancy. Receiving, nutrients such as cobalt, potassium
and other trace minerals that they need. As spring rounds the corner, calves are starting
to be born. Some healthy and some not so healthy. The calves having trouble are given special
treatment to get them up to snuff. We have the equivalent of enough training
to help get them healthy, administering medications, tube feeding and what ever else may be required
to help these little guys and girls back out with their moms for summer. Over summer, the cows and calves are left
to graze and grow. Our job them becomes to maintain the herd. Fix fence, doctor the occasional sick one,
and make sure that they are healthy and happy. We make or buy the hay over the summer that
they are going to need to grow new calves the following year as the cycle repeats and
as October nears, we know that soon their time on the ranch will come to and end. And that brings us to today. The ranch is the biggest and most important
character in our entire story. Its bigger than Erin or I, its bigger than
any individual cow. The ranch is what has been here for over a
hundred years, doing the same thing we do everyday. Technology changes and methods evolve, but
when it comes down to it, the only way the ranch supports itself is through calves. One paycheck per year, that’s what we work
for and as we begin to gather cows and calves from as far as 3 miles away we start seeing
all that years work come into sight. The entire herd is gathered and pushed toward
home where our corrals and loading chutes are located. Once they are all in, then its back to look
for stragglers, and there is always one or two. Those cows and calves that slept through the
entire process. These are the winners of the booby prize,
they missed the parade but they still get one of their own. Until they are rejoined with their friends. Right here is where all the action will take
place tomorrow, the loading chute. Tall enough for a semi-trailer to back up
to but the calves will have a bit of a climb to get up here. One trick we learned a few years ago was that
the calves didn’t like climbing the wooden floor of the chute. To help them as they come up, we put dirt
down on the floor of the ramp and chute. A more familiar footing for them and making
them more comfortable as they load into the trailer. The cows are now in for the night, penned
up close to home. The loading chute is ready to go and the only
thing to do is wait for tomorrow, when the trucks arrive, and all that hard work pays
off. The day has come, and its time to finish bringing
the cows in to the corrals for sorting, I’m a big fan of working smarter and not
harder. Hard work is still something you cant avoid
around here but if you can do something to make it a bit easier, then it makes sense. For cows, food is a huge motivator and by
loading up some cake, a nutrional supplement that the cows love, into the gator we can
coax some of them into the corrals. Although its still early, this will keep a
few of them in where they need to be and help bring in the rest. Neighbors arrive to help, just as I do for
them and we start bringing cows in the rest of the way. Moving them slowly and without much pressure,
and soon enough all contained in two large sorting corrals. Our next goal is to sort the calves off the
cows. We aren’t keeping any replacements from
this years calves, and most all of them, aside from the ones we are finishing ourselves are
going. Most of all of our cows have been through
this before, they know the routine and most sort themselves past me, leaving the calves
back in the alley. Cows move up and around the corrals back out
to pasture and the calves are left behind, to be pushed up into another holding corral. A smooth and simple process, with the right
help and one that would take me all day without them. Once done we are left with corrals of calves,
all ready to go. They have water and food while they wait but
they don’t wait long as the trucks show up, right on time. Loading the truck isnt as simple as just pushing
them all, the cattle hauler trailer is divided into many different compartments of different
sizes, and I first get together with our truck driver and figure out how many go in each
one. After the logistics are done, then its time
to load. Counting out each group, moving them up into
the loading pen and then up the ramp and onto the trailer. When one truck is full, another moves into
its place and the process is repeated, until the corrals are empty and last calf is loaded
on, the doors are closed and its time for the trucks to hit the road. Off to the auction, where they are bought
from buyers all over the area. Some years, we follow the calves to auction,
this year we stayed behind on the ranch, to baby sit the cows. As we let them out into a bigger pasture,
they move on with their lives, heading out to eat, grazing on some nice green grass left
over from summer. Although the cows don’t notice their calves
missing now, they soon will, as their milk will continue to come in. Soon, it will become uncomfortable for them,
as they want to be milked. I cant help them with that, they will soon
dry up, but as they look for someway to relieve the pressure they do get loud and sleeping
becomes something that we have only heard of in rumors, at least for a couple of days. Because soon enough, its back to life as normal. The calves are gone, the cows are no longer
eating for two and they can start building themselves back up. Having a 500lb calf to support can really
drag a cow down and these cows are our breeding herd, they are the backbone of our operation. Its with them that the ranch continues each
and every year, and its with their calves that we can afford to do it. Each calf will bring between 800-1000 dollars
at auction. This year, after paying for hay, expenses
that we have accrued over the last year from everything from equipment repairs, to fence
posts, we are lucky to keep about 20% of our total sale price as operating expenses for
this next year, it doesn’t leave much. Talk to any rancher or farmer, and you have
good years and bad. Boom and bust, whatever you want to call it. For some its all about the good years, for
some they need the boom, but for some of us, its about being here. The ranch is a legacy, something that our
kids will hopefully want to continue someday. Over a hundred years of ups and down, some
years your hold a flush, some it’s a pair of twos, but come the next year you are going
to ante up and for us, even if we have to bluff, we are going to succeed. Today is never easy, you get to know calves,
you become attached to all the animals here, because they are all important. I’ll never waiver on that, I’ll never
say a calf is just a calf, or just a paycheck, because that’s not how any rancher thinks,
or should think. Its about the future, of our family, our kids,
and the future of the ranch. When we first came here, I would have never
thought I could be so attached to something that back then I saw as trivial as a bunch
of dirt. Now it means a whole lot more. Calves are our favorite hello on the ranch,
but also our hardest goodbye, with their help our journey will continue, roadblocks will
be set up in our way, we will figure out how to get over or around them and we plan on
bringing you along for the ride. Thanks for coming out to the ranch today,
hanging out with us a little bit and keeping me company. Tonight, a big glass of whiskey is in store,
as a celebration, and a toast to another year, and a toast to you. We just hit 50 thousand subscribers, a number
that blows me away, and I want to say how much I truly appreciate, the fact that you
want to know where your food comes from and the families behind it. Its inspiring to me and keeps me going everyday. We will be back on Tuesday, with another project
list video and we will also announce the winner of the steston hat that we have been taking
entries to giveaway and there is still time to enter, check the description of the video
for the link or go see us on Facebook and click giveaway on the left side. Good luck, and until I see you again, have
a great week and thanks for joining us in our Wyoming life.