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Posted 10/23/19 (Wed)


This is the time of the year that I miss Pat. Pat O’Brien. He passed away several years ago after a lifetime in the cattle industry. I knew him mostly as an auctioneer.
You have to understand that this is the time of the year that most ranchers are marketing their calf crop. It is a time that you have actually been laying plans for, for more than a year. It started when you were selecting replacement heifers a few years ago and buying a battery of bulls that you hoped would improve your herd.
And for most of us, it ends when you are sitting in the sale barn watching the year’s work go through the ring in a few short minutes.
The crowd is made up of consignors, buyers, and interested onlookers. The buyers have eagle eyes. They can spot a calf that is off a little on a hind leg before they even open the door to let them in. They can see a white spot in a calf’s eye before you can tell if it is a steer or a heifer. And their job is to buy the best calves possible spending the least amount of money they can. So that buyer will quickly point out a calf with a limp, or a little lump, or a bad eye. Maybe it is a little off color, or has a slight hump in its back. Sometimes I believe it is imaginary, but then, who am I, a guy with bad eyes, bad ears, high blood pressure, and various other problems to judge.
When Pat was the auctioneer we would call up the auction barn to get a load number. We often said we didn’t care when they sold, as long as Pat sold them! He was the best.
I was thinking about some of his comments to buyers when I was attending the auction last week.
If you had a calf or yearling that had a bad eye, “Are you buying him to feed, or to read the newspaper to you?”
If you had a critter that had a little hitch in his gitalong, “Are you buying it to eat, or to race?”
If one was cut back because he was a little off color, “I’ll bet you when you take the hide off, you wouldn’t know which one it was!”
If a calf had his ears nipped a little by a late freeze or a spring storm and the calf was cut back, Pat would ask, “Are you buying this calf to talk to or to feed?”
When you see a calf that you warmed up in the pickup cab, or in the bathtub in your house, or you see one that you helped a heifer deliver and then covered its mouth with your hand and blew air into its lungs, it kind of pains you to see that calf bring way less than it cost you to produce it. And there is more to this business than dollars.
Pat understood that.