Guest column: Heartbreak and blessings from the auction barn

Maggie Nutter Region VI
U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Board Representative

When the United States Cattlemen’s Association determined it should raise money to help pay the attorney fees connected with the drafting and filing of the petition for rule making with the USDA FSIS to define beef, my husband, Kelly, and I talked it over. We could sell a steer we’d saved for fatting and give the money or we could organize a “Roll-Over-Auction” and see if we could double that money.

We reached out and other ranchers too donated animals. The organizing of the auctions began – press releases, radio interviews, and Facebook posts, all in preparation and to inform the ranchers what the concern was. Four auctions in two weeks were held.

The heartbreak came as I visited with ranchers and heard the stories of what this winter had claimed. The heartbreak came as I watched cows as thin as concentration camp prisoners slowly march through the ring. They had been impossible to reach due to deep snow, some were lost but these had somehow survived. The rancher who lost many calves trampled by the mamma’s in a two-day storm where no one could get to them crowed behind a windbreak. Then warm weather came and the melting snow flooded out roads and creeks rose. Another rancher was cut off from his hay stacks and after loosing many calves then had to purchase truckloads of high priced hay.

Then the blessings would come.

The donated calf would trot into the ring and the auctioneer stepped aside to have me tell my story and plead the USCA case. Then the sing song rhythm would start “bid a dollah bid a dollah who bid 300, 300, 300. Yep! who’ll bid 325, 325, 325,” and on the song goes and men in neck rags, Carhartt and muck boots would raise their hands and give.

Each donation is humbling to me, the asker, who has heard the sober stories and knows that the ink scrolled on the checks they write represents a night of walking the floor while the wind howled outside for two days, a 3 am check on a group of first calf heifers while it is 20 below and snowing, a morning of shoveling snow or chaining up the already stuck pick up. Each dollar given, be it $10 or $1,000, is the labor of a man or women who know that surviving this hard winter will be for not, if we don’t ensure the future of our industry. And so they give.

The father who sat on the bench and watched his toddle with the big hat and can of pop held by both hands, tips his head and gives. Giving those dollars meant a sacrifice of something else.

To those who gave I want them to know that we respect that those dollars are hard earn and that USCA will spend those dollars prudently to defend the life and industry that means so much to us all.