Marsha Daughenbaugh remembers herding 1,200 cattle down Routt County Road 129 to an auction barn in downtown Steamboat Springs.
The auction barn, located where BMC West now sits, closed in the 1960s. Most ranchers now sell their cattle in Fort Collins or Greeley.
This weekend, however, ranchers looking to buy or sell top quality bulls need go no farther than the North West Colorado Bull Sale, scheduled for Saturday at the Routt County Fairgrounds.
The event is a joint effort of the Colorado State University Routt County Extension Service and the Community Agriculture Alliance. The organizations started the sale three years ago to promote the local cattle industry by connecting sellers with a broad spectrum of buyers.
"We thought there was a market and need to bring potential consignors to the valley for area ranchers," extension agent C.J. Mucklow said.
This year's sale will feature bulls and heifers from 26 ranches in areas including Steamboat Springs, Yampa, Hayden, Craig, Grand Junction, Montrose, Loma and Carbondale.
There will be 55 bulls and 15 heifers of the black angus, red angus, Gelbvieh and Hereford breeds.
The Routt County Cattle--Women will kick off the event with a supper for sellers and potential buyers at 6 p.m. Friday.
After the dinner, guest speaker Kathleen Sullivan of Meeker will speak about the global cattle trade and its potential effects on area ranchers. Sullivan is an advocate for the cattle industry and has served on state and national agricultural boards.
Sullivan's talk is open to all interested residents.
Animal viewing will start at 9 a.m. Saturday after a health check. The CattleWomen will serve lunch at 11 a.m., and the auction will start at 1 p.m.
Last year, 44 bulls sold for an average price of about $1,600. This year's sale likely will determine whether the sale can grow and continue, Mucklow said.
"This will be kind of our make-or-break year," he said.
One of the biggest advantages of the sale is it brings multiple sellers and buyers together at the same time, said Judy Green of Hayden, who serves on the steering committee and will have bulls for sale at the event.
Before the sale, Judy and Jerry Green typically advertised their bulls in the newspaper or by word of mouth. Other ranchers might travel to auction barns elsewhere.
"You might be able to go somewhere else and sell for higher, but when you do it locally, you don't have the expenses that go with travel and lodging," said Daughenbaugh, executive director of the Community Agriculture Alliance.
While buyers will be studying bulls' history and breeding potential, the event will be entertaining for people interested in the cattle trade, she said.
"It's a novel thing you don't get to see very often," Daughenbaugh said. "For people that are interested in the industry, they can sit there all day and learn a lot."
Saturday's sale will include a benefit auction for Jody and Marsha Gregory of Oak Creek. A car accident in August killed their 2-year-old son and unborn child and seriously injured Marsha.
Seven semen straws from Sunny Valley Farm LLC of Yorkville Illinois will be auctioned for the benefit.