Cattle Auction

Once each year in February, we take the calves born the previous spring to the cattle sale. At one year old, they are no longer known as calves, but either steers or heifers. The steers, or castrated males, will go out on grass or a feedlot for another year, and then become big macs. The heifers, or young females, may go the same route, or they may go on to be bred to have a calf and become part of a cow/calf operation like our own. Harland and his brother hauled most of them down to the sale barn on Monday of last week, and then the next morning, the day of the auction, Harland and I hauled down the last load. Once at the sale barn, we waited in line, and then when it was our turn, we unloaded.

As they were unloaded, one of the guys there hollered to another telling him into which pen they were to go.

Ours weren’t due to be auctioned until mid afternoon, so we had time to do some shopping, eat lunch, and then return to the auction. We found a good seat alongside the auction ring.

Sellers tend to sit at the sides and near the ring, while buyers sit up in the nosebleed seats up top. The auctioneer sits at a desk above the ring.

It’s fun to watch him when bidding gets hot.

Directly in front of the auctioneer are the two ring-men, whose job it is to usher each lot of cattle in and out of the ring and also point out bidders to the auctioneer.

Buyers indicate their bid by as little movement on their part as possible. In fact, I have a heck of a time figuring out who is bidding.

Each owner’s cattle are sorted into weight and sex groups and sold in lots. For instance, ours were broken into lots of light steers, heavy steers, light heifers and heavy heifers.

Harland watched as other sellers’ cattle sold.

And he had an animated conversation with his neighbor, who just happens to own pastureland near us.

Finally it was our turn. I wasn’t prepared and so our first lot is in the ring, and the auctioneer is telling the crowd about our cattle by the time I turn on the camera. He then points out Harland, and the bidding begins. The first 2 lots to sell were the steers, and then 1 lone steer sells who was the lightest one we had. The last 2 lots to sell were the heifers.


(The last group to enter the ring was not ours, so that’s why the video cuts off like it does.) While it appears that the ring-men are hurting the cattle, they really aren’t. The buyers want to see both sides of each animal, and to see that they aren’t limping or have any injuries. For those reasons, the ring-men try to keep the cattle moving.

And just like that, it’s all over. One years worth of work sold in less than 5 minutes.

Afterward, we picked up our check at the office, and headed to the bank.

In a few weeks, our cows will start having this year’s calves. And so it starts all over again.

For more posts about our cattle, click here.


——–> UP NEXT: More from the cattle auction. There’s a lot more going on than just the sale of cattle.

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Cattle, corn, wheat, beans, mud, snow, ice, and drought. Plenty of fresh air and quiet. Our life is sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous, but never boring.

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36 Responses

  1. Glenda says:

    Thanks for the trip to the auction. I hope Harland was as pleased with the outcome as his jovial photo implies. Glad you got to go as well and document this for the rest of us.
    Happy calving!

  2. So glad you posted this! I’ve been considering getting out to visit and shoot a livestock auction. Have not been to one since I was a little boy – a looooong time ago! Other than the presence of a computer it doesn’t look like the event has changed too much. Always enjoy your blogs.

    • Suzanne says:

      Thank you Frank. Auctions are free entertainment. And strangely enough even though I was using a Canon 5d, no one paid much attention to me. (the video was with my Canon G9) Auctions are a great place to people watch.

  3. Alica says:

    Is it kind of bittersweet to see your cattle sold? We sell our bull calves at auction, and an occasional cow at the dairy sale. I tend to get somewhat attached! We just recently turned our steer into a freezer full of delicious beef…now THAT was hard!

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Alica,
      Yes it is. I was sitting there remembering some of them when they were born, and as they left the ring, I knew I would never see them again. It’s strange, and kinda hurts.

  4. Glyndalyn says:

    Enjoyed the cattle auction. The last livestock auction I attended was Amish in Holmes County, Ohio in Kidron. We were visiting from rural TN. I had not attended a livestock auction in a long time and enjoyed it. Yes, more goes on than the selling. The Amish had many booths outside the barn with all kinds of items for sale. I notice in your photo most of the men appeared to be middle age. Sadly we are seeing the graying of the farmer here in TN as well. Wonder who will take over after the older men are gone.

  5. mary m says:

    Nope, couldn’t finish watching that! Especially when
    my favorite little black and white face showed up..that
    did it for me. Where’s my towel, lol. As long as I can
    “block out” where meat comes from, I can eat it. Big
    macs aren’t going to look good from now on!
    “softy” mm from vancouver,wa. :o)

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Mary,
      It’s a fine line when raising livestock. You have to care enough about them to give them the best care possible, but you can’t get emotionally attached. Easier said than done sometimes.

  6. Lynn says:

    Wow this was really, really interesting. I would love to own a farm but I’d have no idea what I was doing. City girl for sure.

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Lynn,
      You’d be surprised – you’d learn as you go and do more than you think you ever would. I’ve learned so much since I married Harland, but I know I still have more to learn.

  7. Vivian says:

    Wow, that auctioneer was a real entertainer, wasn’t he? He was fun to listen to and I couldn’t understand a thing he said. Love your videos, Suzanne. I agree with Mary M. As long as the beef comes neatly wrapped up in plastic, I’m okay. Well, sort of. . . I think if I was a farmer, I’d have to grow apples or peaches. I’d make pets out of all the livestock and soon be out of business! 🙂

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Vivian,
      Last year we had a heifer than was meaner than a snake. She kicked at her baby, and refused to raise it. She broke down a panel in the barn. She tried to hop then fence, but worst of all she had it in for Harland and wanted to run him under her hooves. We did the only thing we could do with her. We fattened her up and have been eating her ever since. It’s not hard to eat an animal that had it in for your husband. 🙂

  8. Joani says:

    I so remember this. But, I also remember that it was cold in them there bleachers. Hope U got a good price for all UR work. Hugs.

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Joani,
      Oh yes, I’ve been to auctions in the winter too. Brrrrr….. Last week it was 60 degrees, so it was perfect. Cattle prices are up, so we did ok. Some years good, some bad, but it seems to balance out in the end.

  9. Teresa says:

    I love going to the sale barn–always such fun and interesting people to talk to. It’s just sad when I’m selling my kids. Hope you did well.

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Teresa,
      I’ve never had goats, but would have a hard time selling the kids too. They’re just so doggone cute. 🙂

  10. Pam K. says:

    It seems kind of scary to leave your whole year’s work and expense right out there on the floor at the mercy of the auctioneer and the bidders! I can never understand the auctioneer, no matter how many times I hear them! The video was so interesting! Thanks!

  11. Brenda S says:

    Thanks for posting the auction, this brought back such fond memories of my favorite Uncle. He would take me to the auctions with him. I had such a good time, also remember (a long memory I have as this was back in the early/mid 60’s, lol) our auctioneer, so good and such a joy to listen to.

  12. Brenda says:

    Not that I can see. Just that the people at the auctions are much younger instead of much older…lol

  13. Shailaja says:

    The last photograph says it all- Harland laughing all the way to the bank!

  14. This was awesome and insane! I cannot believe how fast that auctioneer can talk! Seriously how do they do that? And…I did not understand a word he said..I am so glad I don’t have to buy cattle, I would be so confused. I am also amazed at the speed of it all! That is just all so cool to me! I thoroughly loved the whole video..I was laughing out loud a couple times about how fast that man can talk…it just made me giggle!

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Bonnie,
      Me too. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an auctioneer ramble as fast as that guy. I’m guessing he’s been doing it for a while. 🙂

  15. Eliza says:

    I spent many a Friday night during high school at the livestock auction! Brings back a lot of memories 🙂 Thank you so much for posting.

  16. Vivian says:

    I see your point. I wouldn’t want an animal to have it in for my husband (or me) either.

  17. Dixie says:

    When I came across the Cattle Auction blog, I had to take a look, the first picture took me be surprise …. HLE, Great Pictures, I spent a lot of time at the old sale barn before all the updating took place, we sold Hogs and Cattle over there on the Hill. That was years ago when Wes was still alive. Now, Danny runs the show. Good People and Good Memories. Thanks

  18. Barbara says:

    I just found this posting and had to comment about that last group of ladies; sort of looked like a failed attempt at syncronized swim, or maybe ballet class for the 3-4 year old group, you know? All of them turned and headed over in a clump. Then they all turned and headed the other way in a clump. Except for one girl each time that seemed to going the wrong way. I just keep grinning when I think of it.
    My husband looked into auctioneer school in our much younger days. We were in St. Louis and it was over in Kansas City. Seems to me they sent a tape that had it broken down slowly and then kept repeating it speeded (is that a word?) up. Pretty cool to listen to. And no, he didn’t take the class.

  19. I have absolutely NO idea how much your cattle sold for…but I’m glad it brought a smile to your husband’s face 🙂

    Very interesting blog – I’ve enjoyed catching up! All the best to you and your husband 🙂

    PS…loved the story of the witchy heifer! Looks like Harland got the last laugh!

  20. LEE ALVES says:


  1. January 2, 2015

    […] for any cows we’ll have to cull from the herd this year. The rest of the calves will be sold at auction in a few weeks. The heifers will stay on the farm and be bred by the bulls next summer, having […]

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