First cattle sale a boon to local farmers, businesses

Ken Kellar

The Rainy River District is gearing up for the first cattle sale of the season.

The sale is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. this Saturday (April 27) at the sales barn in Stratton.

Kim Jo Bliss is a member of the Rainy River Cattlemen’s Association and a long-time volunteer at the sales barn when it comes to the cattle sales. She said that the sale is an important event for area farmers and potential out-of-town buyers alike.

“The Rainy River district has pretty good cattle. They’re hearty, good-haired, they’re somewhat known–so the auctions have pretty good sales,” Bliss explained.

And because the sales barn is owned and operated by cattle producers in the district, most of the money made from the cattle sale stays in the district to help farmers pay for the costs involved with raising their animals.

“All of that stuff is very costly,” Bliss said.

“So that money is going to stay at the fertilizer plant, at the fuel store and at the farm store where you’re going to buy your seed and all your inputs,” she added.

The money made by local farmers is nothing to sneeze at either. According to the Rainy River Cattlemen’s Association website, across the five sales held in 2018, 6,273 head of cattle were sold at a combined total of more than $6.7 million. Broken down into averages, each day of sales in 2018 moved roughly 1,200 animals and made just over $1.3 million.

Bliss said that this month’s sales could be approaching those kinds of numbers, at least in the number of animals available.

“The [barn] manager, James Gibson, he’s driving around right now talking to producers trying to get an idea of what’s coming,” she said.

“Right now he had 1,100 and that’s only talking to 50-some farmers, so you can probably bet that we’ll have more than that. We’re saying 1,400,” added Bliss.

As for the amount of money that might be seen on sale day, Bliss said that number is harder to pin down.

“Cattle prices fluctuate a lot,” she explained.

“Prices are maybe not as high as they were at some times, and it also depends on stock that you’re selling. It just depends,” added Bliss.

“We’re price takers,” she continued. “It’s not that type of place where we say ‘I want $12,000 for my cow.'”

Aside from providing a financial boon to farmers and area businesses, Bliss noted that the sales day is also a social event.

“We’ve been all cooped up farming all winter, so the spring sale is sort of like an ‘Ag Day’ type thing,” Bliss said.

“It’s really great to get out and see how everybody’s winter was and how calving’s going,” she added.

Bliss recounted how when she was younger, sales day was held on a Monday.

“I would beg to not go to school on a Monday, just to go to the sale,” she recalled.

“And it happened sometimes. But in our little community, it’s the place to be,” noted Bliss.

Bliss encouraged everyone to head down to the sale barn for the day’s events, noting that you don’t have to be a farmer to attend.

“It’s not closed to anyone and it’s kind of cool,” she said.

“These cows are all running through and it’s exciting. Auctions are somewhat exciting when people are bidding,” added Bliss.

Bliss also said that it’s a good opportunity to learn more about what goes on in different parts of the district.

“I don’t think we often know what each other’s doing, just within our little district,” she said.

“We always say ‘Oh, Toronto had no idea,’ but within our own community we don’t really know what each other’s doing,” added Bliss.