Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hauling Calves to the Stock Yards

Today was the day to haul some calves to the stockyards.  The weekly stocker and feeder sales are on Mondays, but I (and a whole lot of other people) like to haul them to the stockyards on Sunday so they can settle down a little, hopefully fill up overnight on some water and feed, etc.  I've heard different opinions about whether that way of thinking is right (some say to haul them on the morning of the sale because they aren't going to eat anything while they're waiting overnight anyway) but my gut tells me that it's better to haul them on the day before the sale, plus the traffic on a Monday morning in Oklahoma City would be a nightmare to deal with while pulling a stock trailer.

I wanted to haul two loads today, so I got up a little earlier and made sure to eat a big breakfast because even if everything went smoothly, I'd be looking at eating a late lunch.  If everything went sideways, it would be even later in the day before I could get something to eat, and a growling stomach doesn't help my mood at all when everything seems to be going wrong.

For a change, everything went just the way it should go, the calves all walked right into the pens without any trouble, I was able to sort the heifers from the steers about as fast as I've ever been able to do it, and the steers all loaded onto the trailer without a fight.  An hour later, I was unloading them at the Oklahoma National Stock Yards (the World's Largest Stocker and Feeder Cattle Market according the big sign when you drive in).   Two hours later, I was back at the stockyards unloading the heifers.

I might just be me, but I always feel a sense of relief after I've unloaded cattle at the stockyards.  I'm always a little apprehensive when I'm weaning them, then I'm even more apprehensive when I'm hauling a trailer-full of calves down the highway worrying about every little thing that could go wrong from a flat tire to a back gate coming open on the trailer to a calf going down in the trailer to a car accident. (I've never really had any problems, so I'm not sure why I'm that way).  But as soon as the last calf walks off the trailer, I stop worrying about everything.  

I just need to go home, maybe take an afternoon nap, and wait until tomorrow to see how the market was.  With the record cattle prices we've been seeing lately, I'm betting I'll see the highest prices I've ever gotten for any of my cattle and I also wouldn't be surprised if those record prices start to disappear next year.  For all I know, ten or twenty years from now, I might be talking about the unbelievable prices I got back in 2014.  It would be great if I'm wrong and the cattle market stays up for a while longer.

Steers waiting to be loaded
Heifers waiting to be loaded
Same steers as above


  1. I stop worrying when they get on the truck, as we ship from the yard.

    My guess is that our guess on prices declining next year will be right. It'd be nice if they didn't, but I've never seen them stay high for a protracted period.

    1. Are you shipping to an auction, selling direct to an order buyer, or something else?

      As much as heifer calves are selling for at auction, someone must be thinking about turning some of them into bred heifers which must mean someone thinks the markets going to stay up for awhile. I'd like to save some heifers for replacements, but it's hard to do that when heifer calves are selling for as much as they are right now.

      My way of thinking is that if I plan for cattle prices to go down and they don't go down, I'm going to be in much better shape than if I plan for prices to keep going up and they go down instead.

    2. Video auction in the Spring, with the shipping in the Fall.

  2. Some of my favorite memories as a youth were spending the mornings at the stock barn. I think those mornings are why I still like going to auctions which I didn't start doing until I was out of high school. I love the milling people, the debate on what something is worth and the challenge of trying to guess what something will bring. At the stock auctions, it was also a good time to catch up with the neighbor farmers there buying or selling.

    I would be nervous too with a trailer full of stock, not because anything has happened but because of the things I have seen happen to others. The most vivid memory was a guy who trailer floor fell out on a load of horses while going highway speeds. The stain he left behind on the highway stayed all summer long.

    1. The auction at the Oklahoma National Stock Yards isn't really that type of auction. Up to 15,000 head are auctioned each Monday, (plus about 1000 during the Tuesday bull and cow auction) and the majority of the bidders are order buyers so it's all business and everything moves through the auction ring pretty fast.

      One little soft spot in the floor would be bad enough, but large part of the floor falling out sounds pretty gruesome. a few years ago, someone rolled a stock trailer over on it's side a few miles down the road and ended up with a crumpled trailer and about 6 dead cows on the side of the road (it probably totaled the pickup too). I'd hate to get the call to go clean something like that up.

    2. Wow, that's a huge auction.

      I don't know how many head the local sale barns sell per week (I should, as I used t subscribe to their weekly list, but it must have quit going out, or I need to subscribe again) but its nothing like that by a longshot.

      A lot of cattlemen here have gone to the video auction now, with that being done in Billings or Rapid City.

    3. I go to Oklahoma City from time to time for work. Next time I do, I think I'll go to the Oklahoma National Stockyards. I'd love to see the auction.

      On rolled trailers, I can recall a loaded stock trailer with a load of sheep rolling off of a mountain road about 20 years ago. What a mess.

    4. Not our sheep, by the way. Just something we all knew had occurred.

    5. "...I go to Oklahoma City from time to time for work..."

      I forgot to add that if you find yourself north of OKC, make sure you keep an eye out for my blue farm truck, it's blue with a dented driver's side front fender is mine, and it will probably be out in a pasture instead of in town (so it should be easy to find).

      Just ask the guy driving if he's "that Rich guy from Oklahoma", and if it's me, I'll shake your hand.

    6. I'll look for that truck as I fly in and out.

    7. If you're trying to recognize it from the air, make sure that you look for the one that has a faded black bed mat, half a roll of barb wire, and a few old t-posts in the bed.

  3. It looks like there was only about 7500 sold today, but depending on the time of the year it can reach 15,000 head. 7500 isn't as big of an auction as 15,000 but it's still a lot.

    I've only been to a couple of the auctions (mainly to get a feel for what buyers were looking for and to get an idea of what other people's cattle looked like), and you had to walk on the catwalks above the cattle pens to get to the auction ring and every time. Apparently people go down to the Stockyard City area near the actual stockyards to eat out, shop, do a little sightseeing, and they also go look at the cattle from the catwalks.

    The stockyards has a website at:, it might a little bit more info if you want to go to an auction.

  4. Definitely an order of magnitude bigger than our stock sales. Probably 300 sheep, cows, pigs, etc is a big day at our sale barn.

    Once when I worked a nine to five job in an office, a group of us went out to eat once a week and to save time, we just rotated among the group so that whose ever week it was got to choose the place. Once when it was my week, I took them to the local sale barn while the auction was going on so that they could experience tenderloins and beef commercials (I think that is perhaps a regional term). A beef commercial is essentially a slice of bread topped by hot beef, mashed potatoes and gravy. They all thought I was nuts when we walked into the place but they certainly enjoyed themselves especially the city slickers among us. We actually went back once in awhile over the years by request.

    1. I don't think I've ever heard of anything like a beef commercial, but after a quick search online, it sounds like it's a regional dish (which might explain why I've never heard of it).

      It's interesting that something as simple as adding a couple slices of bread to roast beef and mashed potatoes could make it even better.

      The philosopher in me wonders what else can be made better by adding something simple?

    2. I've never heard of a beef commercial either. I've seen a dish like that, but it would have just been some sort of open faced beef sandwich.

    3. All I know is that my stomach was growling this afternoon when I was planting wheat (eating a quick sandwich for lunch didn't really fill me up), and I kept thinking about how good a beef commercial would have tasted right about then.

      A turkey commercial (if it exists) sounded about as good. A couple of pieces of bread with some turkey, some mashed potatoes all covered with gravy sounds like a great day-after-Thanksgiving lunch.

      I need someone to remind me in about a month about turkey commercials.


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