Spring is the time of bull sales.
While the snow melts cattle producers begin the process of purchasing new genetics.
When it comes to options, cattle producers have a range of breeds, although less than 35-years ago when European breeds were arriving and making a splash on an almost annual basis.
Breeds such as Meuse-Rhine-Yssel, Chianina, Romagnola and others have come, and while there might be a handful of the breed remaining, they never caught on in a major way.
There are still many breeds to pick from and dozens of breeders, and dozens of sales.
In Yorkton alone Heartland Livestock is hosting several breeder production sales, while the Yorkton Exhibition Association hosted its annual all breed sale this week, and of course there are a number of on-farm sales in the area too.
In that regard Yorkton is not unique, as sales are being held across the Canadian Prairies.
In some respects the sales are as much a social outing as they are a marketplace for beef genetics.
While less a factor today, a few decades ago farmers tended to stay pretty close to home once snow hit. Truck technology and road conditions were far from what they are today, so cold weather and snow made travel more difficult.
When spring hit heading out to a few sales was almost a tonic to overcome cabin fever.
Today that isn’t the case, but a sale is still a place to meet like-minded producers to discuss how cattle wintered, prices, and which team is going to win the Stanley Cup.
So it’s not a huge surprise to walk into a sale barn, like Friday for the Pheasantdale Cattle Co. & Highway 5 Simmentals production sale and find the stands full. There were likely more people than cattle on offer which means some were looking and enjoying the camaraderie of the event, but probably weren’t hauling a bull home at the end of the sale.
Yet, while sales still attract a lot of people, perhaps as much culture as need, sales are also turning to technology to broaden the reach they have.
More and more sales are being broadcast live via the Internet, which allows producers to watch from anywhere, and bid through the click of a mouse.
“It seems to be a trend,” said Shaun Morin, manager of the Yorkton Exhibition Association.
Morin said there are many bull sales each spring, adding “guys can’t get to them all.” However a farmer can come in from chores, turn on his computer “and watch the sale for an hour then go back to doing whatever he was doing.”
Certainly in terms of genetics sales are not just local.
At the aforementioned Simmental sale one lot was sold to Bruderheim, AB., in the brief time I was at the sale.
The atmosphere of the sale barn might not transfer to a computer screen well, but it will potentially mean more producers giving the cattle a look.
It is likely the trend of all things to move to digital will mean a growth in Internet bull sales, but something more than trade in genetics will be lost if live auctions come to an end, although in time that does seem likely the way the world is moving in terms of most things.
Calvin Daniels is Assistant Editor with Yorkton This Week.