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The bull sale mystique

What is it about a bull auction that is so fascinating and wonderful?

Troy Marshall 2

March 23, 2017

2 Min Read
The bull sale mystique
Burt Rutherford

This time of year is bull sale season for the cattle industry. If you had the time or the inclination, you could go to a bull sale every day of the week, it seems. Admittedly, as a seedstock producer, I may be a little biased, but there is a certain amount of excitement that is hard to describe at a bull sale. 

Buying bulls, by its very nature, requires a futuristic outlook. When you buy bulls, you are buying the future of your cowherd and your operation. The bulls themselves will be the key genetic drivers in your herd for the next five years, but their impact lasts for several generations when you figure in replacement females. And unlike most of the expenses we make (hay, mineral, etc. ) that are simply necessities purchased in a commodity market, bulls are investments made in a competitive marketplace. 

Auctions simply have a special atmosphere. It is passion, it is optimism, it is the animals and the people, all of which make our business truly unique, rolled up into one event. Most of the time, they also include a hefty dose of good food, juicy gossip and good conversation. 

Before the sale there is universal excitement and optimism; after the sale there is usually a mixture of emotions. Absolute exhilaration when you get the bull you want at the price you want, and or disappointment that your budget and your tastes aren’t in perfect alignment. 

Everyone handles the post sale emotions a little differently. I’d put most people into three categories: The “realists” who are content that they accomplished one of the most important managerial tasks for their operation and whom are confident that the new genetics will move their herd forward and allow them to be competitive in this industry; the “optimists” who may have agonized over making the right decision and, once it is made, are convinced that they got exactly the right bull at the right price; and the third group who are the pessimists who suffer from buyer’s remorse, and who are not sure that they purchased the right bull and are anxious about the decision they made. 

I hear people predict that someday we will buy our genetics online with nothing but EPDs to describe the bulls. I understand the reasons they may predict that, but there is nothing like seeing the bulls and the exhilaration from attending a bull sale.

I’m in the camp that believes my grandchildren will be attending bull sales when they come of age, simply because this business is about people and cattle and no decision impacts the bottom line performance of an operation more than the bulls you buy. I will never be able to explain it to my friends from the city, but there is nothing quite as sweet as that first bite of a piece of fresh pie at a sale.  

About the Author(s)

Troy Marshall 2

BEEF Contributing Editor

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock and World Champion Horse Judging teams. Following college, he worked as a market analyst for Cattle-Fax covering different regions of the country. Troy also worked as director of commercial marketing for two breed associations; these positions were some of the first to provide direct links tying breed associations to the commercial cow-calf industry.

A visionary with a great grasp for all segments of the industry, Troy is a regular opinion contributor to BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly. His columns are widely reprinted and provide in-depth reporting and commentary from the perspective of a producer who truly understands the economics and challenges of the different industry segments. He is also a partner/owner in Allied Genetic Resources, a company created to change the definition of customer service provided by the seedstock industry. Troy and his wife Lorna have three children. 

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