We hauled five steers to the livestock auction Tuesday morning, knowing they wouldn't bring as much as we had hoped when we bought them because the bottom fell out of the cattle market. When we came home I watched a lot of the auction on the computer. It started at 10:45 and went on all day. They sell the cattle in the order they are brought in, and our calves were some of the last to arrive; I didn't happen to be watching when they sold, but I saw enough of the sale to realize that we wouldn't make enough money to cover my labor: I just hoped we'd clear enough to return what we paid for the calves and the feed I bought for them.
The check came today. It was exactly as I had expected. The calf that barely made more than we originally paid for him was Henry, the calf I weaned at six weeks of age. We didn't dehorn him, which always hurts the price, and he never did outgrow the pot belly that early-weaned calves so often have. I won't be early-weaning any more calves, and as long as the grandson is here to help Cliff, every calf is going to have dehorning paste used on him.
Here's the biggest surprise of all: Two Jersey steers, the ones I always called "the Brownies", made the most money, simply because I paid so much less for them than I did for the two Holsteins. They made a LOT more! So I have learned that any time I have the choice between paying $225 for Jersey bull calves or $425 for Holsteins, the Jerseys are the ones to buy. I only have access to Jersey bulls in the spring, though, while I can buy Holsteins the year around.
Even though the check was disappointing, it's enough to cover money I borrowed from Cliff's tractor fund to help pay for an air conditioner coil and new furnace we recently had installed. He'll be able to start window-shopping for bigger old tractors again. I say window-shopping because he really isn't in the market for any more tractors unless he finds one that's the buy of the century, but somehow he enjoys perusing Craigslist a lot more when he knows he has enough money to buy some of the things he sees.
The man who bought Penny is coming tomorrow to pick her up and pay the rest of the money he owes for her. He sent me an email with a couple of dozen questions about milking, feeding, and tending a cow. He's starting from scratch and knows absolutely nothing about this enterprise, but guess what? That's where I was when we got our first milk cow, and she and I both survived. My parents got to answer all my stupid questions, and I kept that in mind as I answered his. He has the added bonus of the Internet, where there is an answer for all questions... you just have to learn to sift the chaff from the wheat. Also, I told him to call any time he has questions.
That's where we stand today, and by tomorrow afternoon my cattle herd will consist of two cows: