In order to host their production sale at their ranch, the Bichlers have to convert their barn, used for processing cattle and calving, into a lunch room and stadium seating for the sale. 

LINTON, N.D. – The Bichlers held their annual production sale Tuesday, Feb. 12, and Farm & Ranch Guide spoke to Doug about the final preparations leading up the sale during the first days of February.

“We needed to run bulls through one more time and clean them up a bit before the sale,” Doug said. “They hadn’t been clipped since November, so they were getting a little shaggy. We touched them up a bit before the sale once we found a day where it was a little nicer outside.”

In addition to the bulls, there were facilities to prepare and snow to move out.

“With the wind we’ve had recently, the snow always seems to end up where it shouldn’t, so we have to dig all that out, get pens ready and put in some bedding in order to be able to display the cattle,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of family coming in to help with sale prep a few days ahead, so once we get the cattle squared away, we’ll focus on the facilities.”

Doug said interest has been good for the sale, but as a cattleman, you never quite know how the turnout is going to be until sale day, mostly because there are a lot of factors that influence attendance.

“Obviously the weather has to cooperate,” he said. “There’s a lot of sales before ours and after ours, so you really don’t know until the day of. I think that’s what makes it all so nerve-racking, the fact there’s so much unknown going in. I have really good customers and this business has treated me very well, but a lot rides on a couple hours of sale day.”

The final week of January brought with it a polar vortex, plummeting temperatures across the majority of the Upper Midwest. Wind chills throughout the region settled in around 50 degrees below zero and reached even lower marks in other areas. While these are always challenging circumstances for livestock producers, Doug said they came through it all really well.

“We went through quite a bit of straw for bedding and the cattle intakes were way up from what they normally are to compensate for the heat and energy loss due to the cold,” he said. “We’ve been trying to keep as much feed in front of the cows as they want, and we’ve bedded to conserve their body heat and keep them comfortable. They all came through really well and everything was taken care of each day, so it actually went a lot better than I had thought it would.”

Not only are temperatures that low tough on the animals, but they are also dangerous to the producers themselves. For Doug, however, the cows come first.

“We put ourselves second, and I think most ranchers are the same,” he said. “My nephew Patrick is here, so it’s nice that there’s two of us. When we’re opening the gates, instead of walking along and opening them, I’ll drive along in my pickup so we don’t have to stand out in the weather. …As far as feeding goes, you’re in the tractor most of the time, so it’s really not too bad. If we have to be outside, we try to limit how much time we’re actually out there.”

A full review of the Bichler’s annual production sale will be available in the March 1 issue of Farm & Ranch Guide.