Auction: Final exam for bull ranches |

Auction: Final exam for bull ranches

Rob Sabo

Patience is a key element of the bull-raising business.

Northern Nevada cattlemen who raise bulls and heifers for herd replacement typically don’t see the fruits of their labor for up to three years, says Dwight Joos, general manager of Genoa Livestock in the Carson Valley.

Joos and other cattlemen who groom bulls and heifers for sale will test the bull market on Saturday at the 47th annual Fallon All Breeds Bull Sale at the Fallon Livestock Exchange. The consignment sale put on by the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association brings herdsmen from Nevada, California, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Utah who are looking for breed sires and heifers to boost their herd stock. Last year, 108 bulls were sold at an average price of $3,409.

Consignment sales are one the most important markets for the seed-stock industry, Joos says. Genoa Livestock will bring five male Herefords to the sale as breeders are limited to eight head each.

“It is another piece of the marketing plan,” says Joos, who formerly managed beef, research and farming operations at the University of Nevada, Reno, Main Station field laboratory off East McCarran Boulevard. “For us, consignment sales are where we generate quite a bit of our revenue.”

Revenue that’s the culmination of years of work.

Joos last week walked through Genoa Livestock’s herd of 300 registered Herefords looking for choice heifers to inseminate with top-performing sires. It takes nine months for those cows to calve, and another 16 months to two years before those calves are ready for sale. Bulls must weigh a minimum of 1,000 pounds to be considered for the auction.

“There’s quite a bit of effort that goes into it,” Joos says. “In round numbers it’s almost three years from the time you put the semen in a cow until you actually take a check. There is a lot of hard work and diligence that goes into these operations.”

Veterinarians are responsible for much of the diligence leading up to the auction. Bulls must pass a host of required injections, vaccinations and tests of factors such as scrotal circumference, the bull sperm’s shape (morphology) and the sperm’s ability to swim toward an egg (motility).

Bulls brought to the sale are sifted by a team of two cattlemen, a breeder and a veterinarian and the animals are graded on a scale from 87 to 91. Bulls not passing minimum grade are culled from the auction.

Auctioneer Eric Duarte of Duarte Sales in Beatty, Ore., who will be working the sale along with Monte Bruck of the Fallon Livestock Exchange, says the two-hour sale can be difficult for the auctioneers. They are working for the consignors and are trying to get the most money for the livestock from cattlemen who have a tight grip on their wallets.

“It is a stressful day,” Duarte says. “You want them to be as profitable as you can.”

It helps, he says, when auctioneers are familiar with bulls’ bloodlines and genetics and can talk up the animal on the auction block. The Nevada Cattlemen’s Association gets a 6 percent commission on all sales.

“When they get down on the auction block you can say with some conviction what your opinion is and try to highlight the best points for the consignor and bring in the best money possible,” Duarte says.

Dave Stix, owner of Stix Cattle Company in Fernley, says the annual sale in Fallon draws three types of buyers: Commercial cow-calf operators from northeastern Nevada, ranchers who operate in Fallon and Gardnerville, and seed-stock operators. The price each type of operator is willing to pay varies, Stix says.

“Some people just go and buy price, and some buy for what fits their operations,” says Stix, who bought his first bull more than 60 years ago when he was a boy of 12. “Some have desert outfits and will purchase bulls in $1,500 to $2,000 range, and some of the pasture people in Gardnerville want little better bull. Then you’ve got the people who want real outstanding bulls they might go from $3,000 to $5,000.

“For me, I’m just looking for a bull I like the looks of and that I think will fit in my cow herd for the best price.”

Genoa Livestock is a relative newcomer to consignment sales such as the annual Fallon auction. New breeders often have to overcome “brand loyalty” from regional cattlemen, who tend to buy from producers they’ve used in the past because their bulls or heifers have shown proven results in their herds. However, a bull’s genetic line also can spark buyer interest, as can the particular needs of different cattlemen.

“You have to have good quality it is always a driver,” Joos says. “You want to have the best quality you can show up with.

“People buy bulls to influence the production of their livestock,” he adds. “In this industry, which goes way back, there is a little bit of brand loyalty. If they get something that really works they have a tendency to go back to that operator because they know it will work.”

There’s no guarantee that heifers will produce calves that spark buyer interest, though. Joos likens work in the seed-stock industry to a slow-moving train decisions made today impact operations years down the line.

Duarte, who works auctions up and down the West Coast, including the past six auctions in Fallon, says the stock at the Fallon All Breed Sale are among the best bulls in the country. Such auctions are crucial for smaller breeders who lack the stock to host a production sale on their own, he notes.

“There are some good quality bulls there, and it is all breeds, so there is a chance to come and view five or six different breeds. They are some the best bulls these breeders have to offer.”

More than 100 bulls are expected to be auctioned at the Fallon All Breed Bull Sale, which starts at 11 a.m.