It's been a hot, dry, busy summer. We're nearly done with our haying. Today (Sept. 6), Lynn is cutting the last small field of alfalfa for a second cutting; when it's baled and hauled we'll be finished. We have mostly wild hay (grass) and only small fields of alfalfa, on which we sometimes get a second cutting - if we have enough water for a second irrigation and if the elk and antelope don't eat it up.
On areas we don't get a second cutting, we save the green regrowth to graze. We always wean our calves on pasture. The field aftermath usually lasts the calves from weaning until they're sold in mid-October.
This year, however, the fields are very dry. With the hot summer, our creek dropped drastically by late July and we didn't have enough water to irrigate the fields again after we got the hay off. There's a good green understory in the tall meadow grass, however, and it should enable the weaned calves to do well until we sell them.
Michael (our son) and his wife Carolyn have been busy with their custom haying. A few machinery breakdowns slowed them up, and Lynn used our tractor and baler to help with a couple jobs to help them catch up. They did a lot of all-night baling and cutting.
Andrea often took care of all three children, until school started last week. Lynn or I picked up Michael and Carolyn's kids from the bus after school when their folks were haying. Seems like old times, driving the two miles to the highway to get the kids - a step back 20 years to when we were getting Michael and Andrea off that same school bus.
A New Way To Sell Calves We sold our calves through the video auction this year for the first time and were pleased with the results. David Smith, the buyers' representative, came from Hamilton, MT, to video the calves. David was quite impressed with the mountains and the cattle. He liked the calves and was intrigued by our management and genetics - our short 35-day breeding season (and the correlation between high fertility and good feed efficiency) and our composite cattle tailored to our harsh conditions.
He told us these were the type of calves many of his buyers like - mountain cattle that have a lot of muscling and very little fat, in good physical condition from all their travel and climbing. He says calves growing up in these conditions are healthier (good strong lungs) and have more growth potential because they have the frame but not the fat and can gain weight swiftly.
Many of his buyers prefer range calves for these reasons, especially when feed is relatively cheap. The range calves are lighter than similar age calves off irrigated pasture but have the ability to gain faster.
The video footage he took during our five-hour ride through the high pasture - edited to fit into a one-minute time slot - showed the calves and the steep country they range in.
A New Marketing Method For Us The auction was Sept. 3 at Denver via satellite and we drove to Leadore to watch it and be available by telephone hookup to accept or reject the bid. It was fascinating to watch the different lots going through. The groups of calves were being sold about one lot per minute and it was interesting to see the various types of cattle and the country in which they grow up.
We felt our calves sold well. We got $88.75/cwt. for the steers, $82.75/cwt. for the heifers - about average for similar weight calves sold that day and a good price for a mixed load of steers and heifers. We'll probably sell our calves this way again next year.
This type of auction has several advantages over hauling the calves out to a sale or having to depend on just one or two local buyers. You pay a commission but you don't have to accept the bid. Your cattle are listed by lot in a catalog prepared ahead of the sale, telling the type of calves (breeding), estimated weight at time of delivery, when you want to deliver them and where they will be weighed.
Seems like a great way to sell calves. We just wish we'd started doing this sooner.