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Some pet peeves about bull sales

Some pet peeves about bull sales

I finally got a vacation. I’m even chuckling as I write that because my acceptance of what I consider a vacation has become pretty sad.

Last Tuesday I was running around in circles. I had a mental list of around a hundred different items with the realism that only about five were going to get accomplished.

That morning I had received a phone call. I was supposed to be in Fort Worth, Texas, Feb. 1-4 for meetings. With concern over COVID, the group was asked if we would prefer the meetings to go completely virtual or if we would like to still meet in person. With plans already figured out and multiple reasons to head south, I said it made no difference to me.

That evening, the decision was made to host everything virtually. I had a lot less packing to do as I prepared to head south for a couple of days.

A little after 2 a.m. Wednesday, the Boss Man’s Wife and I headed out with a trailer of fall club calves that were headed to Cross Plains, Texas. The weather the first five hours was anything but cooperative. Temps were below zero with fog and snow-packed roads that caused the ice to build up on the antenna and mirrors around two inches thick.

It was somewhere in Kansas before both roads and fog decided to clear. By that time I was already over the trip, my butt was sore, as were my hands from clenching the wheel. After around eighteen hours, thanks mostly to the lovely weather, we arrived in Cross Plains and unloaded calves. Then we continued on for a half hour to family where we spent the night.

The next day the Boss Man’s Wife and I headed to Irving, Texas for two days of appointments before she went to stay with family and I headed out for the weekend to spend time with friends.

I lived in Texas around the Fort Worth area for a short stint after college. I was working for an equine embryo facility north of Weatherford. I hadn’t had the opportunity to see one of the ladies I worked with in around 10 years, and we were finally able to catch up on this trip.

Somehow, I also ended up at a Charolais bull sell in Sulphur Springs. Fortunately, I walked out of the sale barn not owning any white critters. I may have been disowned. But I do enjoy looking at other cattle and seeing how processes work in different parts of the country.

It’s been a couple of years since we have purchased a bull for the ranch. For years we have been raising our own, selling the excess privately and using AI to bring in other genetics. I actually have too many bulls running around and am in the process of getting them photographed to get them off to some new homes.

I always analyze everything that goes on through bull sales and definitely have some things that I prefer over others. The first being, if you put out a catalog, I dislike a different sale order the day of the sale. I know there are breeders that do sale orders with the thought of putting the top-end bulls up front, but my thinking is it’s tougher for me to follow a sale when I’m constantly focused on shifting through my catalog to find the right page. If I’m looking at my catalog, I’m not looking at the bull or the auctioneer, and I spend a lot more time looking down when I’m constantly trying to glance back and forth between the sheet and the catalog to figure out where they heck we are at.

The second biggest issue I have with bull sales is that I have become a fan of video-only sales. I see this time after time: people are out behind the barn, walking through the pens. The bulls are behaving well, and then sort one off, introduce it to new people, new ring, and a lot of fast paced action and noise, and I’m overstimulated – not to mention the poor bull.

There is no scientific data needed to know that some breeds will react differently to high stress situations then others. If I was raising those certain breeds, I would be implementing a video-only sale quicker than you can say “sawdust shower.”

The final issue I have with bull sales is the food. I think I was spoiled growing up. The one main bull sale we would attend every year had homemade pies. I think every sale should have homemade pies and the “church ladies” serving the meal.

I recall one year when a preacher who was new to the local church asked why there were so many blind ranchers in the area. He thought it was pretty cool, until he realized that the “blind” ranchers were sale day help carrying sorting sticks.

With the meetings canceled, the Boss Man’s Wife and I headed home Monday. A quick 14-hour drive compared to what we came down with. But even though my “vacation” will hold me over for a while, I’m already looking forward to the next one. Oh, wait. Calving is coming up. Never mind.

Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at This column represents the views of one person and are not necessarily the opinion of the Midwest Messenger.  

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Jaclyn Wilson raises Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. Send comments to her at

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