“When one day determines the year’s income, many factors play into if there’ll be enough to pay all the bills.”
For years, the calf crop has been sold at auction during the first part of October. While many ranchers spread marketing out throughout the year, these calves come right off their mommas into the sale ring.
That has proven logistically the only way it can be done considering feedstuff, facilities and labor requirements.
Top end heifers are retained as cowherd replacements while all other calves are sold at the same auction. As with any business, there is a learning curve and the calves are handled somewhat differently than in earlier decades.
Today’s calves are given traditional vaccinations before turning onto Flint Hills pastures in the spring. Conscientious care is provided throughout the summer with treatment for any eye, feet, respiration, and other ailments which might arise. The calves receive no growth implants and no special concentrate beyond native grass.
Certain breed association’s said opportunities to increase calf value with considerable added investment have been tried without positive return. However, giving additional vaccinations, in lay terms called preconditioning shots, prior to calf sale day have proven advantageous. It is a major time and labor ordeal to accomplish with definite added expense that does seem to pay dividends.
Roundup of calves from pastures in four counties is a major task requiring lots of help. Ideally it would all be done sale day, but that is just not physically possible. Rather more than four days are needed to get everything corralled.
Pairs hiding in timbers and renegade cows that always run the opposite directions add to roundup headaches. Then a very much needed drenching pour down at exact time to gather sale day further complicated life.
More than a dozen horseback riders plus several mechanical carts worked closely together in order to get the jobs done. Then a handful of trucks and trailers made several trips to haul the calves to town.
Everything worked out with more calves weighing less apiece than a year ago, but averaging higher price per pound. Upsetting the banker, outstanding debt is larger than the check will cover.
Still, all in all, the cattle business is a great life.
Reminded of Deuteronomy 6:24: “Our God gives such a good life keeping us optimistic.”