A Day at the Cattle Auction

Today has been very educational. It’s Friday, and I’m off work, so I was able to go to the local cattle auction to see how it works firsthand (their website has some really good photos, so check it out). I’ve heard a lot about cattle auctions from various sources, and it was about what I expected. They don’t just have cattle; at least once they had a donkey (Fiona!).

I had never seen the front of the building before (it’s way off the road).

There were over 1300 cattle auctioned today. Whew! That’s a lot to go through. They ranged from some pretty spectacular longhorns to tough corrientes to plain ole cows. And they ranged in age from newborn to around 8. The buyers sit in a really nice, air conditioned area, and the cattle are sent through from the pens, usually one at a time (exceptions are cow/calf pairs and a few that went together for some reason).

We were in the balcony, and this is what it looked like.

The reason the place is so nice is that there was a really bad fire there last July, which I think was arson, and the whole community came together to replace it as quickly as possible, since everyone depends on it so much. It was wonderful to see how people donated equipment, material, and their labor to rebuild in record time.

The reception area, offices, and kitchen are all new and lovely.

I enjoyed seeing all the cattle come through and listening to the auctioneers. One I could not understand at all, but I could understand Kenny, the owner, pretty well. You really have to have a good eye for cattle to buy at these things, because you get to see each one about 15 seconds, unless the preceding cow won’t leave the exit chute and it gets held up.

Cattle come in through the right doors, and leave through the left ones.

There are a lot of cowboys whose job it is to make the cattle turn so buyers can see the whole animal and to “encourage” them to go to the exit quickly. Some of it was reasonable prodding, but I (squeamish city girl that I am) was less than thrilled when they whacked them in the face and used the prod more than necessary (but how am I to know…I am not a cattle prodder).

Action shot of longhorn cow and calf

It was mostly pretty fun, and I learned a whole lot about what makes a good cow and what makes a bad one, how they are priced, and such. Plus, I got one of the delicious locally-famous cheeseburgers from the restaurant, which I’d wanted to try for years. It was as good as advertised.

That’s the one that came to the ranch. The red sign is the weight of the calf, I think.

When they were on break, I got to see the pens where the cattle are. You get to walk on a cool metal walkway above the cattle and their dust. I saw all the working cowboys and cowgirls moving the cattle, and heard a great deal of mooing. The pens are really spacious and well ventilated. I wasn’t hot at all, and the animals didn’t seem distressed by the heat (though I can imagine the whole auction experience is not a cow picnic).

We went home and got the cattle trailer so we could pick up the small cow and her nice-looking heifer that will join the herd here. I enjoyed watching the cowgirl load them up quite efficiently after the trailer was backed into a chute area. This whole operation is quite well designed and runs like a well-oiled machine, which I guess it is! Lots of money exchanges hands here every week.

The cowgirl jumped off her horse and shoed the cow and calf into the trailer from our ranch.

Once we got the pair home, they ran out of the trailer and didn’t stop running until they got to the far end of the pasture. I did not blame them one bit. The second the other cattle saw them, they ran up and checked out the new ladies. It will not be long until they are all happy.

It was so great to get to see one of the most important businesses in our town, and hope to get to go back again sometime. I never thought I’d get a chance to learn about ranching, cattle, and all this stuff, so I’m quite grateful for the opportunity to learn how things work, rather than just looking at the cows and saying they are cute.

What a face!

It will be fun to see what gets done with the Hermits’ Rest Ranch’s cattle residents as the pens get built out and cattle equipment comes in (my domain is strictly horses, donkeys, and chickens). I bet I learn a lot now that I’m even closer to the action than I was with the neighbors’ cattle or the cows the tenants raise, which I just get to adore from afar.

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

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