A day at the auction

October 21, 2002 12:00 am

By MIKE FERGUSON

Of the Baker City Herald

To be sure, the Thomas Angus Ranch annual production sale held Thursday served its purpose: it moved more than a fair amount of cattle. The 369 lots sold brought in a total of $842,950 from cattle buyers from 13 states.

But it was the sideshow that accompanies the sale each year that makes the sale a unique and eagerly anticipated event, both for ranchers and city folk alike.

There was a visit by the Leadership Baker group, out for their annual Agriculture Day; the 2,000 cookies that volunteers baked for hungry buyers and guests; and the 400 steak-and-egg breakfasts (as well as a similar amount of steak dinners) cooked up by the Baker County Cattlewomen.

"It's just a great testament to the people of Baker County," said Lori Thomas, who delivered a talk to Leadership Baker participants minutes before the sale began. "Brian Cole once told me the sale is a good way to take the pulse of Baker County. This is our heritage, and if it's successful, it's because of all the people who sort cattle and bake cookies and take care of a thousand other things."

Thomas' talk to Leadership Baker included a description of the operation's embryo program. Think of it as surrogate parenting in cooperation with dozens of area producers.

She also walked the visitors through the shorthand contained in the sale catalogue, which describes each animal for sale with what must be for a newcomer a baffling array of categories and numbers, organized into tables.

Thomas says she looks forward to the group's visit. This year marked Leadership Baker's second appearance at the sale.

"For people who aren't familiar with the impact of agriculture in our county, this is an opportunity to show them our small part of the big picture," she said. "We provide the genetics, which others use to have their calves. Eventually, it ends up on your dinner plate. It just takes a little time.

"It takes all of us to provide people their eating experience."

Her husband, Rob, deemed the sale successful, especially considering the state of today's depressed cattle market. The crowd was up slightly from the year before, he said.

"It was just mighty normal," he said of the sale. "It's fun, and it's a little stressful. All those people work hard to make it enjoyable. It's an event that people want to come back to every year. For many of them, it's a chance to renew their friendships with people they don't see very often.

"We see our sale as a place people can come out and see what our business is all about."

The day's top money-maker was a bull calf purchased for $8,350 by Wells Cattle Services of Stephenville, Texas.

In all, 94 calving ease bull calves sold for $208,150, an average of $2,214.

Sixty-nine Angus growth bulls brought in $154,750, or $2,243 per head.

Eighty-two Angus spring ET (for embryo transplant) bull calves fetched $186,750, or $2,277 on average.

The 31 Angus fall ET bulls were sold for an average of $1,837 per head for a total of $56,950.

The 16 Angus fall ET full sisters brought the sellers $61,600, or $3,850 each.

Seventy-seven Angus bred heifers went for an average of $2,269 per head, totaling $174,750.

The sale totals were $842,950 in all for 369 lots, an average of $2,284.