Spirits high despite drought

Feb 14, 2014

With California suffering from three years of drought and the livestock complex in retreat as ranchers search for feed and ship cows, the 73rd edition of the Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale proved again to be a bright spot for cattlemen and women.

The talk prior to this year’s event was all about the record-breaking drought conditions particularly in California but also pretty much throughout the West. As could be expected, there was a great deal of anxiety on everyone’s mind as to how 320 bulls were going to find new homes in light of the drastically reduced cow herd and no feed. But leave it to that old Red Bluff magic as all of the sales turned in some excellent results. You have heard the old saying, “I’d rather be lucky than good.” Well it seems that Red Bluff is always good with a little bit of luck thrown in.

On the second day of the event, which ran Jan. 28- Feb. 1, Mother Nature teased a little bit as a pretty good shower fell most of the morning, but by afternoon there weren’t many rain puddles to be found as the sun came out and things warmed up. With the sunny skies and warm weather, the Tehama County Fairgrounds were filled with people looking at the bulls, watching the horses and dogs work and doing some shopping at the trade show.

This five-day event has never failed to impress with the quality of bulls, geldings, stock dogs and replacement females that are consigned each year and again this year the quality ran deep. Consignors save some of their best for Red Bluff knowing that the buyers appreciate quality and are willing to pay for it.

This year, despite the dry conditions, the commercial market has remained very strong with calf prices at record highs, so with cash in their pockets, they helped make all of the Red Bluff sales rather impressive. The bull sale topped at $8,700 as the Champion Range Ready Angus bull consigned by Cardey Ranches, Turlock, CA, found lots of friends. The Champion Halter Angus Bull from Bobby Lax was close behind at $8,000.

The gelding sale was down in numbers but buyers found a strong set of horses and the sale topped at $28,500 on Yellow Texas Star, a 2007 buckskin consigned by Nancy Tingey. As is always the case, the dog sale drew a capacity crowd that watched the Champion Stock Dog sell for $10,000 from long time Red Bluff consignor Merle Newton. The sale that started it all this year was the Western Video Market feeder sale and the Replacement Female sale with some very strong results.

With conditions the way they are it would be easy for doubt and pessimism to creep in, but the folks who put Red Bluff on aren’t made that way. Over the years, this sale has faced adversity and good times and the one constant has been the dedication of the Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale Committee. Their devotion to putting on the best possible event never wavers and over the years the names and faces have changed but they have always made it happen and with class and style. This year’s officers include John Owens, President; Ron Anderson, Vice President; Dusty deBraga, Treasurer; Matt Owens, Secretary; and Directors Ken Hufford, Button Daugherty, Mac McGiffin and Sale Manager Adam Owens.

The five-day event started on Tuesday, Jan. 28 with the sifting and grading of calving-ease bulls and range-ready bulls. The sifters and graders look at each bull and sift them for soundness and put a quality grade on each bull. It’s a big job and makes for a long day. On Wednesday the halter bulls go through the same procedure. The bulls are judged by breed and champions selected for each as a good-sized crowd of spectators watch and do their own judging. The judging wraps up with the selection of the coveted Jack Owens Ideal Range Bull with this year’s honor going to a long time consignor to Red Bluff, Morrell Ranches, Willows, CA, on their Hereford bull. While all this is going on, the trade show is doing a brisk business and the stock dogs are worked outside in front of a very large crowd. The day wrapped up with the Buyers and Consignors Steak Dinner with all the trimmings.

Day three puts the spotlight on the geldings and mules as they are shown at halter in age order in the Pauline Davis Pavilion. This year saw an early start to the Western Video Market and Replacement Female Sale due to a large number of consignments. Back at the Pauline Davis Pavilion in the afternoon, the geldings and mules are shown in dry work, trail and cattle work and there is always a large crowd on hand.

The evening draws another huge crowd as the Champion Conformation Gelding is selected and the dogs are worked inside.

Friday morning the horses and mules are shown in team roping, cutting, Snaffle Bit/Hackamore and stock horse contests. Following this the Craig Owens Ideal Ranch Horse is selected. In the outdoor arena the dogs are worked again and then everyone files into the Don Smith Pavilion for the Stock Dog Sale and you had better get there early if you want a seat because it’s standing room only. For the crew there is not much time to spare as the crowd begins to fill the Pauline Davis Pavilion for the Gelding Sale.

This sale is business with a good dose of showmanship thrown in as the consignors put their horses through their paces in the sale ring and the huge crowd watches, visits and parties.

The crown jewel of Red Bluff is the center of focus on Saturday as the bull sale attracts cattlemen from across a wide area. As mentioned before, there was a great deal of apprehension about this year’s bull sale, but it didn’t take long into the sale to dispel those feelings as ranchers snapped up the strong set of bulls and demand held on throughout the sale order. When all was said and done Gerald Timmerman, Springfield, NE, was the volume buyer and there was a strong sense of accomplishment by all involved in this sale. With the bull sale done, attention switches to the Buckin’ Best Bull Riding and the party and dance that follows. Sunday morning finds the fairgrounds pretty empty as consignors and buyers load up and head home already thinking about next year. Red Bluff is an institution in the livestock business and if you have never been to it, you really do owe it to yourself to see it. It truly is a microcosm of our western lifestyle. — Jerry York, WLJ Fieldman