Commentary: It’s more than selling a bull

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For those of you who don’t know my background, I was raised on a purebred Red Angus operation in the heart of Flint Hills of Kansas. Yesterday marked our 16th annual production sale. Ever since I was old enough to help out, I have been the sale day photographer – my strong interest in photography can be greatly attributed to this. While I was behind the camera before the auction, this year was my first to sit up on the block as the clerk with Dad and Col. Sonny Booth. When people ask about our sale I always tell them I’d rather miss family Christmas instead of it, because that is the truth. The family ranch has been an integral part of my upbringing and will always be a significant component in my life.

Ornery and loyal is customer Lee Broyles. Every year Lee asks to have a picture taken with me so I have something “to make the boys jealous” with. My first 4-H steer was purchased from a pen of feeder steers that had Mushrush Red Angus genetics that he had raised. As I write this, it is the day after my family’s annual production sale and the first day of preparation for the next. Like hundreds of fellow producers across the country, sale day is the biggest day of our year – the make or break moment when we finally see the fruits of our labors and how our program is received by the people of the industry.

Might be using the term “our” too loosely. You see, ever since I graduated college, my involvement on the ranch has been limited to weekend visits. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why watching this year’s sale process was so humbling.

Hours and hours of work year-round goes into preparation for sale day – from making and implementing breeding decisions, compiling data for EPD’s and other records, to mapping out advertising schemes and everything in-between. The late nights and early mornings that come with building a life in the agriculture business are inevitable.

But worth it.

Worth it when customers come back year after year to make your genetics part of their operation – validating the decisions you’ve made. Worth it because the familiar face that comes back each year builds from a customer to a close friendship.

And there is happiness.

The kind of happiness that comes from working alongside your family through the good days and bad to build a successful business. The kind of happiness that buzzes through the barn after the auction as buyers excitedly talk to each other about their recent purchases.

It’s also stressful.

It’s impossible to count the times my parents and siblings have stayed up late into the night as sale day approached. I know they aren’t unique from other producers before their big day, working on all the things they have to get accomplished in a short amount of time.

Most of all, it’s humbling.

Humbling because of the hundreds of breeders to choose genetics from, buyers came to you. Humbling when the work you’ve put in results into a greater success than you could have ever imagined. Humbling as respected cattlemen and women though out the industry compliment your program and offer genuine words after your sale.

Making all of it worth it.

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Vern France    
Idaho  |  March, 31, 2014 at 09:41 AM

You really captured the essence of sale day, Laura! Very well written, accurate, and heart-felt.

Jan Lyons    
Manhattan, Ks  |  March, 31, 2014 at 09:51 AM

You hit the nail on the head. It IS more than just selling a bull. Your family's operation is successful and respected. Your insight and humble pride will add much to the operation as you join with your family. Well done. Jan

Jeff Davidson    
March, 31, 2014 at 11:20 AM

Good article. You're selling the genetics of a program that's years in the making.

SD  |  March, 31, 2014 at 12:06 PM

It's interesting to read the thoughts of the folks behind the auction block at the bull sale. You are so right about becoming friends with those purchasing the bulls! It is just satisfying when the decisions made by all the parties result in good cattle to either feed out, or to sell to others to do that. All working together to raise and produce high quality beef for our consumers allows us to enjoy the successes of one another. a recent bull sale attendee........

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