If you live in a rural area, there is a chance that a local Livestock Auction is happening near you.
Livestock Auctions (also called "sale barns") are places where livestock producers and buyers come together. Its a great place for the farmer to sell any extra livestock he has for profit. It is also a great opportunity for the average "Joe" to get his hands on some animals (usually at a fair price).
The internet, local papers or your extension office can probably direct you to the nearest Livestock Auction (if there's one near).
Sale Barns can be fun. There are the animals. There are the friends. There are the snacks.
It is easy to be overwhelmed and confused when attending a Livestock Auction for the first time. There are all the people. There is the auctioneer. There are corridors filled with animals. Don't worry if you feel a bit lost during your first auction. There are many employees and regular attendees mingling about who would love to welcome you and show you the ropes. Don't give up, it takes some time to understand how the Livestock Auction works and how to maneuver.
If you are feeling cooped up, the sale barn is a fun event to get you out of the house. Before you know it, you'll be a pro and showing someone else around.
I have met people who have strong opinions about sale barns. Some people consider them risky places to purchase livestock and prefer to buy animals from other farms. Other people frequent local livestock auctions weekly and happily bring home new additions to their farms without a second thought.
Buying from Livestock Auctions is a personal choice and there is no wrong answer. When purchasing livestock there is always risk involved. Whether the animal is coming from an individual, a dairy, a fair, an Auction or somewhere else there is always the opportunity for health concerns. Most Livestock Auctions do examine the animals for health and pregnancy.
I personally have purchased livestock from our local livestock auction and have been very satisfied.
Many people who attend Livestock Auctions have never bought an animal. Folks travel for miles to see the livestock, see their friends and mingle. It's not just a place to go to purchase animals. It is not unusual to see members of the local Cattleman's Association, the local 4-H community and the local FFA (Future Farmers of America) educators, members and volunteers. In general, people who enjoy farming and animal husbandry can be found enjoying Livestock Auctions.
If you happen to be new in your area, or just interested in making some new friends (or connections), attending a Sale Barn is a great way to get plugged into a community. If you are an animal enthusiast, the local Livestock Auction is a sure place to meet other like-minded folks.
Not all auctions serve food but many do. If there is a dining area and menu being served it will most likely be limited. Items often found on the menu at a sale barn may include: soft drinks, hot chocolate, chips, snack foods, popcorn, burgers, hot dogs and chicken fingers. If you enjoy the occasional "junk food" splurge- your local Livestock Auction could be a fun place to eat.
Many people there will be watching the auction from seats while enjoying a fountain coke and a bag of fresh popcorn.
Sale barns usually have plenty of newborn livestock for folks to bid on. The adolescents aren't limited to just calves. You never know what (irresistable) animals may come up for auction: sheep, goats, feeder pigs, potbelly pigs, calves, cows. When they bring out the babies it is hard to say, "no."
Depending on the rules at your local Animal Auction, the parking lot may contain only cars. If your Animal Auction is like the ones out here, the parking lot is the fist place to find animals and great deals.
If your action allows buying and selling prior to the auction on a person to person basis - the parking lot is the beginning of the fun. Around here it is normal for the sales to begin 20-30 minutes before the Auction. This where we often find lines of trucks and other vehicles loaded with furballs (and feather-balls) being sold. It's like a separate show in itself: puppies, kittens, rabbits, chickens, guineas, turkeys, dogs and more. You never know what you're going to find in the parking lot at the Livestock Auction.
Check with your local Livestock Auction for rules and participation.
Many of the people at Sale Barns are there doing research. Whether someone has an animal to sell or is in the market to purchase, attending a Livestock Sale is a great way to find out what animals are selling for.
Sale Barns are a great place to learn. Whether you are new to animal husbandry or have been around it your entire life, it seems like there is always something new to learn. There're old heritage breeds of livestock. There're new breeds of livestock. There's new terminology. There's also learning to not scratch your head during bidding (you could accidentally go home with a goat!).
If I could make one change to my local Sale Barn it would be to designate "smoking" and "non-smoking" areas. The Livestock Auction near you may be in a non-smoking facility, however, ours is not.
Other than the smoke, our local Sale Barn is a win-win. Everyone enjoys attending. People welcome neighbors and friends. New-comers can get plugged in and find community. If you have never attended a Livestock Auction before, you may want to consider it for your next night out.
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