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A different kind of spring on the farm

Guest Blog by Jeanine Moyer Jeanine was raised on a pig, beef cattle and crop farm in Ontario

Spring comes to our farm early. We don’t wait for the green grass or baby calves, the annual spring bull sale is enough for us. Each year a catalogue of potential sires is mailed out to our farm marking the onset of the spring season. Dad and Uncle spend hours pouring over the pictures, details and genetic makeup of each animal before settling on their select few they would like to purchase at the upcoming sale.

Sale day often dawns on a chilly Saturday and once chores are finished we pile into the farm pickup and head for Listowel, ON with trailer in tow. You’re never guaranteed to bring anything home but Dad always hitches up the trailer just in case. Any farm gathering, whether it be a local auction sale, farm tour or in this case, a bull sale offers donuts and coffee and as kids this was a great opportunity to eat our fill.

Auction barns always have oversized parking lots to accommodate large stock trucks or in our case, an old pick up with farm license plates and a livestock trailer. Upon registration and securing our bidding number we amble out to the barn with coffee and donut in hand to assess each animal up for auction.

Genetics are an important component to raising livestock. Half of each animal’s genetic makeup comes from the mother, or cow, the other from the bull, the father. Selecting a bull is very important because he will be responsible for bringing multiple crops of calves to the farm. Farmers select genetics to suit their operation. On our beef farm my dad selects cows and bulls that will produce healthy strong calves that will gain weight efficiently and have a pleasant disposition. After all, there are many young children around our farm and farm safety is number one. Bulls can be selected for their muscling, ease of calving (predicting how large a baby calf will be when it’s born) and frame score (overall size) among many other things.

Once everyone has evaluated each animal up for sale, caught up on the neighbourhood gossip and refilled their coffee cup the sale is ready to start. An auction sale is always an exciting thing to watch. Sometimes the best part is watching the auctioneer’s face turn beet red when he gets excited or the reaction of the crowd when a bidding war gets intense between two buyers. If nothing else a cattle auction, or in this case, a bull auction is loud. Between the auctioneer’s constant callings, the auction helpers call out bids and the noisy animals it’s easy to get confused.

 It’s always an intense moment when the animal we’ve chosen to bid on comes out. Will he run too high? Who will bid against us? Will we be loading him up in the trailer to take him home?

Inevitably a farmer’s pocketbook always pays the price at an auction. Dad’s rule dictates that if the animal is within his price range he’ll buy and today he did. Dad outbid the other buyers and we are now proud owners of a sleek Black Angus bull. All the way home we discuss the day, who we talked to, what news we heard and most importantly, what will we name the bull?

Spring has sprung on our farm and as we unload our new bull and watch him amble around the barnyard getting to know his new home we can’t help but think of all the black baby calves we will have next spring courtesy of him. Him, I guess we had better come up with a name quickly, maybe we should consider ‘Springer’?

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Posted by OFAC on April 4th, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,animal handling,Auction sales,Beef cattle,Canada,Farm life,Transportation
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