Friday, November 2, 2012

A Visit to the Marana Stockyard Auction

Yesterday morning we took the kids to school, did the chores, and headed to the Marana Stockyard Livestock Auction. This event happens Thursdays and we wanted to check it to weigh our options on purchasing a replacement steer and possibly a second cow for milking and the making of future steers.

Marana is a sleepy little farming city located northwest of Tucson. We've had luck finding some of our stock in that town. (Gucci and Lucky came from Marana.) There are fields of cotton and corn, lots of wide open spaces, and the landscape is dotted with horses and tractors.

We had never been to a livestock auction and didn't know what to expect other than animals being sold to the highest bidder. We arrived a little early. The auction usually starts at 10:30am. We took seats on the right wing of the viewing area and eventually noticed that most people sat on the opposite wing. We could tell right away that most everyone there knew everyone else. They called each other by name, joked, laughed, and shared updates on the goings-on in their lives.

The first animal came in a little before 11:00am. After that it was a long slew of in and out, whips cracking in the air or whacking the metal walls, and "Hey!" to keep the cattle in motion. There were a lot of Black Angus going through and we noticed many had extra teats. Then came a couple of cows that looked the worse for wear: one who had poor eyesight and one who didn't breathe quite right, her cheeks puffing in and out as if she were blowing up a balloon. They sold for less than the others.

Next were the pairs and bred cows and this stock looked better than the previous batch. Here we paid close attention, trying understand everything as it moved very fast. The bred cows had stripes painted on them to indicate which trimester of their pregnancy they were in. One for the first, two for the second, and three for the third. They called them stripers as in, "Here's a nice three striper!"

The pairs were a cow and her calf. Sometimes they were sold together and sometimes they were sold seperately. The most troubling part for me to watch was when they would put the mother back in the run so the calf could be bidded on alone. One mother cow was particularly defensive of her little baby and circled him ferociously to keep the men from parting them.

A Hereford heifer being bidded on.
There were also pairs in which the cow had been bred again, so you could purchase them and essentially end up with three animals.

The bulls were the most impressive, big, proud, dangerous guys who showed no fear in the face of the men cracking whips and shouting.

Next came the calves, from youngest to oldest. The first sets were not weaned. Later sets were. There were different kinds, but mostly Angus, some Corriente for roping. Some were sold alone, but many were sold in pairs or sets.

We went to the office to get the rundown from one of ladies who works in cashiering. The Stockyard administers vaccinations and can perform many services such as castration (ouch), dehorning, ear tagging, and worming. We were told that the next time we came we could go out to the barn area and view the animals firsthand if we got their early enough and it wasn't too crazy-busy.

All in all, it was very interesting. Around noon, we headed for the Cattleman's Cafe, a restaurant located within the auction house building. And yes, we had burgers. They were delcious. We chatted with one of the owners who was also our server.

After our meal, we headed out for a drive in the barn area where the cattle are held before auction and afterwards for pick up. Everything looked well cared for and the critters had plenty of hay and water. It wasn't a particularly hot day, so there weren't much in the way of flies. Thank goodness! It made for a tiring day after the drive back. For once, I was not in the driver's seat and I took the opportunity to have me a nap. Zzz

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