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What Preparations for a Cattle Sale Look Like

Every other year since 2011 my family and neighbors get together for a busy two weeks to set up a cattle sale. As the years have gone by we have gotten better at orchestrating the madness, though it is always stressful. This year was no different. We spent all summer building fences and slowly getting the big projects done so it would be less of a panic when we got close to October first. It was a year long project that involved both my whole family and my neighbors’ whole family but it sure was a fun one! We put up brand new fence and gates all over the place to make sure everything looked good and the cows wouldn’t get out! While doing this we ended up replacing some water lines and adding gravel and dirt in all over the place to keep things looking good, and to ensure the cattle would have a nice, solid place to live.

Our shed full of brand new gates

After all the gates and new fence went up, it was time to start preparing everything else! We needed to clean the unnecessary items out of the pole shed and then start decorating, and scrubbing everything. It seems silly but we wanted everything to look great. We started out small with just a few decorations and slowly added more in, as we breezed right through the week before the sale. For most of the week prior my mom and neighbor spent most of the time decorating while I scrubbed the sale ring, added more wood chips to it, swept everything off so it wasn’t dusty and raked the dirt floor so it looked good. After those things were done I wiped down all the decorations, and swept and scrubbed some more. The cleaning of everything never seemed to end since each day we did more decorating, we made bigger messes.

Following the scrubbing of everything a few times over, we had most of the decorating done and  it was time to worry about the cows! They needed to be washed daily, and we needed to put up temporary pens for them to stay in while potential buyers came in and previewed them before the sale. Making the pens and putting bedding in for the cattle was a fairly easy thing to do but the same could not be said washing cows. Washing cows each day was an especially difficult job to do since the cows don’t really want to be corralled and cleaned up, it is just as stressful for the cattle as it is us. Since we take them off of pasture and then try to do this for almost a week straight, it starts to bother them. Occasionally, a cow will fight hard and escape before he or she gets washed, this sets us back anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour since we need to sort through all the already washed cows to find the one that isn’t washed and then get it back into the other pen so she can be washed. This definitely isn’t an easy job, but it is one that needs to be done.

Saturday morning is one of the most stressful a parts of the week, since potential buyers come in Saturday night to preview the cattle that will be sold on Sunday afternoon. Saturday, until about one in the afternoon is a busy day. This is when we perfect everything and make sure it is all as close to flawless as we can get it. After all that is done we go to our homes to shower and change to make sure we look our best! In the end it pays off as we all enjoy a meal together Saturday night after the cattle are put back into their more permanent pens and await the sale on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday morning we wake up, wash the cows one more time before we put them back in the pens  to be previewed one last time, where they stay until an hour prior to the start of the sale. Once we have an hour left before the sale we put the cows back in their larger pens so we can bring them into the auction ring when their time comes. Once the sale begins, a group of people push the cattle into a set of gates that leads down into the shed, and then the auction ring. There another group of people show them off to potential buyers. Once the cow has been sold it is then sent out of the shed. That is where three more groups of people come in. One crew pushes the cattle back inside the fence, a second handful of people push the cattle back around the back of the shed where the third group of people then put the cattle back inside their respective pens until it is time to load them onto trailers.  Overall it takes us two to four hours to get all the cattle through the sale ring. By the end of it all we’re stressed and tired but worth it!

After all the cattle have been sold and are back in their respective pens, a middle man is designated to relay information from the people who will load the cattle, and the truck drivers. We do our best to stay organized and have open lines of communication to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible. It usually takes about an hour and a half to get all the cattle on trucks and heading off to their new homes. Once we have all the cattle gone, it is time to take down everything we spent the last week setting up. It is slightly bittersweet, but at the same time a huge relief.

Once everything is over we smile and laugh some more and talk all about how there’s two years before we do it again. Those two years seem to fly by so fast, and in the blink of an eye we’ll be setting it all up, laughing, and making memories all over again. If you ever get the chance to take in a cattle sale, do it and think about all the fun, stress and work that goes into setting one up!

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