They do it every Saturday - folks from many miles around come to Muleshoe to sell or buy livestock. We two city boys had never been to a livestock auction before, so after assuring the staff that I wasn’t from PETA and was not trying to cause trouble with my cameras, we wandered around to see the action.
Of course, one must size up the possibilities before the auction. The auction started at 9AM with sheep, goats and some hogs, with the cattle auction starting at 1PM. First thing in the morning, most of the pens held sheep and goats - though I was amazed to see some llamas. I was told later that many ranchers put llamas and mules out with their cattle to protect them from coyotes.
And I thought mules was just the name of the school mascot.
(As always, be sure to click on each photo - you will see a larger version of the picture if you do.)
Each animal is identified by a tag or sticker and when the time comes, the critters are herded into the ring - in one door, parade around for a few minutes, then out the other door. While the ring men swat the sheep/goats/cows/horses to keep them moving, the auctioneer prattles on with a running tab of the prices electronically displayed above him. By the way - the ring men were pretty easy with the plastic paddles, which make more noise than anything else. Even the most recalcitrant animal didn’t get much more than a swat on the butt.
The bidding is like any other auction - it is a mystery how the auctioneer sees the bids. A little nod here, a dip of the head there - somehow he sees the bids and keeps things going. The ring men occasionally point out someone in the crowd to help him see all the bidders, but for the most part, he relies on years of experience - and a knowledge of his customers. They all seem to know each other, though I did hear him once say “75, from the man I’ve never seen before.” More often, I’d hear things like “Fred? You through?” or “Hey - this is a nice steer, Jimmy.”
Few of the animals were sold in large groups - they were auctioned off either one at a time or in small herds of six or seven. I was surprised to see so many goats - one rancher told me a few were sold for milk, but most were meat goats, intended for the Muslim population around the Dallas area. Some of the smaller kids were sold to families who would raise them as a project for the children.
And yes - there were some photogenic types around too. Some fit the image of the West Texas cowboy - and others were a mixture - a little bit typical American teenager with a little bit of cowboy too.
In other words, Americans.
Thanks to Jaime Myers for the hospitality. The brothers enjoyed their day at the livestock auction.