We have been planning and preparing to bring grass fed beef cows to Happy Earth Farm for the past year. We are finally ready to “pull the trigger” and purchase a few. Like any new endeavor, being as informed as possible is key. We enlisted the help of David, a farmer who has been in the Red Angus cow business for decades, one of the nicest men I’ve ever met and one of the most generous with his time. We toured his enormous and impressive operation last year (see an older blog post “excuse me, but is that bull sperm on your pants”) to read about that adventure!
We met David at the auction site the day before to view the available cows. We needed to tap into his expertise before the big day! To me, all the cows and calves look the same, but to David, the differences are glaring. He checked out those cows like a dude judging the swimsuit competition at a beauty pageant. We talked birthing hips: Upper flanks that are too close together might result in difficult birthing. We moved on the udders: teat size, structure and firmness must all be taken into account. Apparently, there is nothing worse than a bad set of teats. Fat pockets on the upper thighs: Where those pockets are will determine if the cow is full-grown or not and how big she will eventually get. Hoof size: too small and there could be leg issues down the road. Weight: if ribs and hipbones are showing, do not bid.
We are in the market for a breed called Hereford that we will mate with a Red Angus. David recommended we bid on a cow (safe in cafe), that means one that is already pregnant, and also a heifer (a cow that has never given birth) that is close to being ready to impregnate. He dissuaded us from bidding on a bull calf. The bull calves (males) go for cheaper, but we would be more limited on usage since we don’t want to breed on farm with our own bull. Mostly, bulls are castrated (becoming steers) and are raised for beef.
So we showed up on bidding day with our list of prospects in hand. The farm was abuzz with activity. There were people from all over the country there to purchase cows, bulls, and calves. We nervously awaited David’s arrival because we had no idea what the bidding process would be like and we really wanted his assistance. He said he would stand by Steve and give the sign when he thought the price was too high and not worth the investment.
Everyone was making their way to the bidding tent for the noon start of the auction but no sign of David yet, so Steve and I were uneasy as we took a seat at the far end of the tent. The auctioneer began. Holy crap he talked fast……just like the commercials I’ve seen featuring an auctioneer! Steve got up to try to find David. I looked over and spotted David on the opposite side of the tent. I jumped up and started waving to Steve in an attempt to get his attention. Well the only attention I received was from the auctioneer. Seems I was bidding on a very expensive cow without realizing it. Steve saw me and started yelling, “sit down! Sit down! Stop waving your hands! Oh my god Karen stop it!”
Thankfully I was outbid on that pedigreed $15,000 hunk of beef. At auction’s end we left empty handed, but wiser. When we attend our next auction, Steve has learned that duct taping my arms to my side is probably a good idea.