The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

River Ramblings South


January 15, 2020

We had friends from Pennsylvania visiting as we were making plans and preparing to market our 2019 calves at auction. They are also farmers and ranchers; they had brought their local Lancaster Farming paper with them to show us their markets and sales. What a difference from our auction yards in Montana where mostly cattle are sold, sometimes a horse, pigs, sheep, or goats. At their auctions, they sell the usual livestock; then, they sell alpacas, yaks, chickens, rabbits, parakeets, guineas, turkeys, ducks, geese, pheasants, doves, pigeons, squab, guinea pigs, basically any domesticated animal! The many auctions are listed in the paper with what sold and the average sale prices. It was quite interesting to read and imagine the cacophony of animal noises involved with the auctioneering background! On our ranch, the guineas alone make enough noise to drown out the auctioneer! Auctions take place in different auction barns daily. Also sold at auction are vegetables, eggs, different varieties of hay, wood, all types of grains and seeds. Ron and I have decided on our next trip to Pennsylvania to visit our friends, and we will attend a few of these auctions.

It is interesting to see the variations in ranching and farming across our beautiful country. If it weren't so far, it would be great to take advantage of the difference in prices as their calf sales are much higher per head. Good quality hay sells from $220-$340 per ton. The guineas sell from $20- $90 apiece! They are considered a delicacy in fancy 4-star restaurants across the area! If Ron and Skylar get tired of my flock of guineas, they may get transported to a market!

Our calves sold locally at Billings Livestock Auction, in Billings Montana, a 5-hour haul by a semi, most likely heading to a feedlot in Kansas. We calve later than some, hoping for warmer weather and green grass. Most times, it works well for us, and our calves hit the markets when fewer calves are available to buyers, keeping the prices decent. We plan our shipping and sale date as far in advance as possible, watching markets and calf numbers. We also must be mindful of the weather, hoping for no blizzards or overly warm weather for rain and mud. Bad roads will quickly change all your plans as it is next to impossible to get a semi-trailer load of calves to market safely. God willing, we get the gathering done, the calves loaded, and the semi on its way. This year everything worked out for the best, the calves sold well, and the check is in the mail. We are thankful to pay the bills and prepare to do it all again next year.

Maybe next year we will have an adventure and send them to a Pennsylvania Auction, or probably not! And so, it goes here by the river.


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