Bringing the Livestock to Market

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On a snowy Tuesday morning, the stockyard at the National Western Stock Show is a large chilly place.

On a snowy Tuesday morning, the stockyard at the National Western Stock Show is a large chilly place. Pen after pen of cows slightly dusted with snow, like small city blocks separated by dirt and brick roads. Levi Ebert, a rancher from Kansas, is in a white tent near the auction house. Levi raises 40 heifers (cows up to two years old) per year, and he sells between 35 and 40 every year. The “elite” cattle are sold to commercial vendors, so that they can produce more beef. Levi also raises bulls; when asked why bulls sometimes have rings in their noses, he explained that it was a way to control misbehaving bulls. The nose is a sensitive place on a bull and slight pressure on the ring is enough to bring the bull under control.

 

Next to the stockyard , in an old building, sits the auction house where cattle are brought to be sold. Cows, bulls, spring pasture rights, and bull sperm are sold in an auditorium with a pen at the bottom. Behind the pen is a platform where the auctioneer and assistants conduct the auction. The livestock is brought in from the right, and paraded around in circles until the auction for that particular animal is complete. Then they exit through a door on the left.

 

“Sold!” yells the auctioneer, after a Red Angus cattle auction. These cattle look extra pretty from getting washed and blow-dried earlier in their pens. Ranch hands carrying vacuum-sized hair dryers were present in many of the occupied pens in the stock yard. Nearby there were metal containers with numerous spray cans, bottles, brushes and towels. Tons of cattle each year are sold at the auction, making millions of dollars. Most of that money goes to the ranchers keeping them in business for another year.