Another day in the adventure of moving to South Dakota – we were invited by neighbor Cowboy Dave to go with him to the Crawford, Nebraska cattle auction. Cowboy Dave explained this was a “feeder” auction, so the cows were being purchased to go to another lot where they would be fed and fattened up to later sell for beef. He had two heifers and one steer that were born in September that he was taking to sell.
We went to Cowboy Dave and Linda’s place where they had already separated and corralled the three calves that were heading to auction. They have quite the set up where they send the calves from the corral down a tight little alley and turn them right into the back of their cattle hauler. We got to help, although they have mastered this task between the two of them. I should say, they let us help and of course we had fun and learned a thing or two.
We drove the 89 miles down to the Crawford Auction, stopping shortly in Edgemont, SD to pick up the required paperwork to transport cattle across state lines. The drive was beautiful; the first part in the southern black hills was stunning, and then we headed out across the flat prairies of Nebraska. We went through miles and miles of National Grasslands and saw thousands of cattle, a few antelope, and maybe 4 other cars!
Upon arrival at the auction, we pulled into a corral area and Cowboy Dave let out his calves and they were penned next to hundreds of other sets of cattle that were to be sold at the auction. We went into the auction house which was really something to see. It was set up like an auditorium, the auctioneers high up on the stage, and the lower part of the stage was actually a scale where the groups of cattle were corralled and displayed for ranchers and farmers to bid on. There was a handler on the left side of the scale/stage who would open the door and the cows would rush in and run around while the auctioneer started his bid calling. Sometimes it was just one calf, sometimes there were more than 30. The larger groups always seemed to herd themselves into a tight little circle and keep going round and round, much like a cow tornado. (Maybe that could be the next sequel to “Sharknado?”)
It was hard to keep up with the fast pace, but with some guidance from Cowboy Dave and a little time to settle in, we were able to follow along. There was also an electronic “Score board” which showed the total weight on the scale, and the average weight/cow. The next board showed the previous sale, how much each head went for and what the price was per pound. Pilot Dave almost bought a calf when he pointed out the score board to me! Cowboy Dave said “Don’t point, that’s how I bought my first calf!”
There was some deviation in prices, but I would guess the average calves went from between $800-$900 apiece! The calves were sold on price per pound, ranging from $1.42 to $2.05. That means if Pilot Dave and I were sold as a pair at auction, we might bring in somewhere between $500 – $600 dollars…..I’ll leave it up to you to guess our weights and do the math!
We stayed a little while, but left before Cowboy Dave’s calves sold, as he was near the bottom of the list and thought it would be late before they made the stage. We thanked him for bringing us to the auction; it was quite an enlightening experience for us and Cowboy Dave said it was important for us to see if we plan on doing our own herd one day. These auctions occur across the country nearly every day of the week, and this is how meat gets to the grocery store. It is so easy to take it for granted, but each Big Mac is the result of a rancher’s hard work and careful tending to his herd.
So we headed on back up the road to the High Lonesome Ranch (Cowboy Dave and Linda’s place) where we were greeted by the wagging tails of Hercules and Arrow. Linda met us at the door with some cold Keystone Lights, and we drank them down and told her about our adventures. Pilot Dave and I had to run out shortly after that because it was raining and predicted to start snowing. We had to rush back to the “Happy” camper to disconnect the water hoses and prevent our pipes from freezing. After we got home we popped a frozen pizza in the oven, had a glass of wine and talked about the day. We slept great in our cozy little camper and woke up to just under an inch of snow! We love it here!!!