BELFIELD, N.D. — The auctioneer was going about a mile a minute. He was taking bids and calling them out loud, when a burly, beefy and beaming jet black bull bolted through the sliding door into the auction ring, aiming for the highest offer from a sea of cowboy hats.
The auctioneer rattled, “16 dollar bid, now 17 … anybody on 17?” The crowd of young cowboys to third-generation cattlemen grew silent. “Sold for $16,000.”
With the highest bid at $16,000, the rest of the 110 bulls from Richard Angus Ranch were in no doubt, competing for high stakes at the Friday, Dec. 11, production sale.
Fourteen miles outside of Belfield, N.D., more than 300 ranchers from Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming and even Texas traveled to the Richard Angus Ranch to claim the best bull during the Seventh Annual Production Sale. The highest bid came in at $16,000, two bulls went for $13,000 and another for $11,500. Most of the bulls averaged $5,200 a piece, each weighing in at 1,450 to 1,500 pounds.
For the past seven years, Emily Richard and her husband, Brandon, have built up their program to suit each commercial cattleman.
“So this year, Brandon and I really felt that we reached our goals in how we breed the cows to get the bulls that our customers want and (what) they’re really looking for to help their herds,” Richard said.
Dennis Price from Buffalo, S.D., traveled up to the Richard production sale for the third year and has done business with the Belfield ranching family in the past. Running approximately 1,500 beef cows on 40,000 acres, Price looks for longevity and endurance when he’s purchasing bulls.
“I got to have bulls that will hold the pasture. We run big pastures that they (have to) travel and kind of take care of themselves as far as winter,” Price said.
With plenty of good bulls in pristine condition to choose from, Price remarked that the sale was going to be tough to bid out other ranchers. Typically, he will purchase two to three bulls at Richard’s sale. Price added that Richard’s cattle are run similar to his own.
“They just got a good program. They got some good bulls and they do business with me, and I do business with them. They’re good to do business with,” he noted.
As a rancher from Medora, N.D., and one of the helpers during the production sale, Ted Tescher said it’s the Richards' “progressive” mindset and their continued passion that steers them to success each year.
“It’s fun to look at the good cattle," Tescher said. "To me, it’s always good to challenge and sort them and just the people (you) get to see — people you haven’t seen for many a year. It’s a relaxing attitude that everybody enjoys.
“These are salt of the earth people — that’s what attracts a lot of people and the fact that Brandon has such a passion for it (and) he’s constantly improving are the things that bring people here. And they’re great neighbors to everybody. This is a great community, especially this Belfield community. Everybody helps everybody just like they did 50 years ago.”
Shane Garman of Bainville, Mont., and his wife, Jill, came to the auction for the first time and were amazed at the shape the bulls were in. Garman was also intrigued by the fact that this sale featured 2-year-old bulls whereas other sales typically auction off yearling bulls. Maturity is what brought Garman out to the sale.
“I like a light birth weight bull with a lot of growth, that’s what I look for in the bulls that I buy,” Garman said, adding, “They’ve got good-looking bulls. They’re nice, big, healthy boney-beefy bulls (and) the kind I like it. A lot of angus bulls, but these look good.”
As one of the younger cattlemen present, Tanner Tescher, of Beach, N.D., has attended the Richard production sale over several years and decided to venture back to look at the bulls in their mint condition and examine the young cows also up for auction. With 400 head of cattle on his 9,000-acre ranch, Tescher mentioned that each cattleman differs in what they want in a bull. However, the main attributes include good hooves, height, and flat, straight backs.
Richard's black angus program is one to model after, he added.
“It’s the first bull sale of the (season) that we go to and stuff, so it kind of sets the tone for the rest of the sales throughout the spring,” Tescher said. “Their cattle area always in pretty good shape and they’re good cattle people. They want you to have what you’re looking for, that’s why their traits and stuff can be for all sorts of cattlemen whether it’s a general cow they’re going to keep for 14 years just because she performs every year. They want to make it right each year too. They’re honest people and they’re just good people to (develop) a history so that you can trust.”
Following the bull sale, 200 3-year-old bred cows — 150 solid black and 50 first cross of purebred Hereford and Angus or baldy cross — were auctioned off, averaging $1,700 a piece. Richard noted that those experienced females are another driving factor for ranchers. Due to start calving in early April, those cows have demonstrated to be superb mothers “weaning off a great calf crop this year.”
With next year’s bulls already in the “yearling pen,” Richard hopes to exceed this year’s goals and bring something better to the table.
“We are going to look for uniformity and we’re going to look for performance and easy flexing abilities … We want the bulls to look good and they have to look better than they did this year. So we know what they looked like this year so we know what we’re shooting for next year,” Richard said. “But we’ve got really outstanding genetics in next year’s pens so we’ve got a lot of fun things to work with and we really expect them to be better next year than they were this year.”