I was at the Sale Barn the other day. I went for lunch. I know. It is not especially a place one would “go” for lunch, but that is how it happens here. The Sale Barn is where the farm animals are auctioned.
Last week, I was playing Flower Shop with my sister-in-law, the florist. She lives about thirty miles away, and I go each week to spend the day with her. She puts me to work, and I have learned a lot from her about flowers and farming. Her mom is the flower delivery person, and she knows just about every person in Green County, Wisconsin. I just love both of these women.
Kim’s mom is a farm woman, and she now lives on the same farm where she grew up. Her folks were dairy farmers, her husband was a dairy farmer, and now her son and grandson are dairy farmers. I ask a lot of questions when I am with Joyce, and she said, “I need to take you to the Sale Barn.” So she did.
The day we were there, cattle were being auctioned. We went upstairs after we ate delicious sandwiches for lunch with all the loud, braggy farmers in their striped bib overalls, ball caps, and muddy shoes. We were the only women in the café for a time. That was an education, in itself, and no, I did not meet the new man of my dreams. Just sayin’.
The auctioneer was doing his thing, and I had been warned not to so much as scratch my nose, or I would own a cow or steer. The men sent the animals in through a door, coaxed them to walk around in a muddy circle while the bids were going, and then sent them out another door. They are bid on and sold by the pound, and there must be a scale in the floor, because their weight is shown on an electronic board above the auctioneer’s head. It was kind of heart-wrenching for me, but people have to earn a living.
When the auctioneer took a break, we went up on the catwalk. That is a steel structure that is a bridge over the whole barn with a grating floor you can see through. We walked above the animals and looked down. We could see them all. There were pens with hundreds and hundreds of loud, milling around cattle and pigs.
When the auction resumed, they sold 250 calves. Some of the calves were only a day old. By this time, there were families with kids bidding on Angus, Holstein, Jersey, and Brown Swiss calves. Some were calico, though they don’t call them that. The calico ones are cross bred with two types of which I forget the names. I liked those babies.
The calves will be raised, fed out, shown at the fairs by the 4-Hers, and come to the tables of people all over the country. Some ways to make a living are harsher than others, but everyone has to eat. What we eat is a choice. Next year, when I come to the Sale Barn for lunch, I think I will just order a salad.