Jim Stanko doesn't like hearing loud cries from his cattle in the middle of the night. Usually, that means a cow is giving birth to a large calf.
"You don't want 90-pound calves," the Steamboat Springs rancher said. "That's when you spend your nights chasing cows and pulling calves, and that's no fun."
To avoid such late night wake-up calls, Stanko attended the Northwestern Colorado Bull Sale, held Saturday at the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden, and bought a Black Angus bull that is expected to produce low-birth-weight calves.
Stanko spent $1,700 on the yearling, slightly more than the $1,592 average price at Saturday's successful auction. The 44 bulls sold brought in $70,050 for consignors from all over Colorado and Wyoming. By comparison, last year's inaugural bull auction brought in an average of $1,450 per bull and a total of $68,250 for 47 bulls sold.
Some bulls sold for the minimum of $1,000, while the top seller -- a 1,200-pound Black Angus from the Frosty Acres Ranch north of Craig -- went for $2,800.
"I was a little surprised," said the bull's owner, 17-year-old Doyle Moon, about the high sale price. "He had high muscle quality and had some good numbers behind him."
The good numbers Moon spoke of were statistics provided by a genetics test called expected progeny difference, which is required on each bull at the sale, and is what most buyers use to make their choices. The tests provide reliable information that determines each bull's expected performance, genetic traits and fertility.
At Frosty Acres Ranch, Moon said his family has 60 head of cattle, about 60 fewer than they used to have, because they are focusing on quality more than quantity now.
Providing quality bulls is the point of the Northwestern Colorado Bull Sale, said Marsha Daughenbaugh, executive director of the Community Agriculture Alliance, which co-sponsors the sale with the Colorado State University Extension Service and Routt County CattleWomen.
Like Stanko, Vern Morton also used the sale to buy a low birth-weight Black Angus bull. He spent $2,000 on the bull for his 50 or so cattle on his ranch between Hayden and Steamboat.
"I needed a low-birth-weight bull, and his numbers were impressive to me," Morton said. "I liked his narrow shoulders, which wouldn't cause any problems for a young cow's birth canal."
Low-birth-weight bulls were popular at the auction. Hayden rancher Kurt Frentress bought two.
Fifty-nine cattle were planned to go through the auction, but 12 did not meet the quality standards set by the EPDs, Daughenbaugh said. Three did not sell.
"That's a good thing, because we're careful what we're trying to sell here," she said.
Selling quality, high-performance, disease-free bulls is what makes the buyers happy and gets them to come back, Daughenbaugh said.
"This is great because this is what Routt County started with," Daughenbaugh said. "This continues the agricultural tradition."
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