Steamboat Springs It's Wall Street meets the Old West in a ballroom at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Hotel this week as ranchers in cowboy hats sit in front of computer screens and man telephones while cattle from around the country are auctioned off.
By week's end, 330,000 cattle will be sold in Steamboat in what organizers say is the largest cattle auction in history. If you're wondering why you haven't seen, smelled or otherwise noticed hundreds of thousands of cattle around town this week, it's because they aren't here. Superior Livestock Auction, a company specializing in satellite and Internet auctions, is conducting the auction.
Richard Stober, general manger of Superior Livestock Auction, said this year's "Week in the Rockies" broke its own record set two years ago of 275,000 cattle sales. The auction continues today and Saturday, beginning at 7 a.m. and lasting until about 4 p.m. Through Thursday, 195,000 cattle already had been sold.
The auction is simulcast on Dish Network, DirecTV and on the Internet. Whether bidding at the Sheraton or from home, bidders see broadcast feeds from the lots they are buying their cattle from, eliminating the need for cattle to travel before they are actually sold. Despite the worldwide accessibility, Stober said about half of the auction's sales come from people on site.
Cam Dougherty traveled from South Dakota to buy 15,000 cattle at the auction. He said he made the trip to Steamboat instead of bidding by phone so he and his wife could make a vacation out of it as well. Dougherty said the auction was a good way for him to get access to cattle nationwide - and it saves a lot of time.
"In the long run, where else can I go and buy 15,000 cattle sitting on my butt," Dougherty said.
Shawn Foster, livestock manager at Three Forks Ranch in Savery, Wyo., said he used to have to travel more than 500 miles just to reach the nearest sales barn. Foster made the much shorter trip to Steamboat on Thursday to witness the sale of 500 of his cattle. Foster said these kinds of auctions save not only time, but also money. His last freight bill for a traditional auction was $1,200.
"It opens it up to the world," Foster said.
This is the 19th annual Week in the Rockies auction for Superior Livestock Auction. Nearly all of them have been held in Steamboat. Stober said the company likes Steamboat because it has more of a cowboy feel than other mountain communities and is easily accessible by air.
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