Starting at 10 a.m. every Monday, livestock is auctioned at the Perham Stockyards, with owner and auctioneer Mitch Barthel running the show.
“We sell livestock on commission for commercial, farmers, or whoever’s got something to sell," Barthel said. "We’ll sell it."
Before an auction can begin, the livestock being sold must be sorted and penned by sex and by size, and checked by a veterinarian, Barthel said. When its time for the auction to begin, the livestock goes to the ring in groups, by weight, to be sold.
“So if you’ve got 10 steers and heifers, and five are steers and five are heifers, they'll be sorted,” Barthel explained. "If you’ve got a 700 pound steer, we’ll pin it together with the other 700 pound steers -- and (then) the 500 pounders together and the 400 pounders together. The same way with the heifers. Then they’ll go into the ring that way.”
The first animals to enter the auction floor are hogs, goats and sheep. Then the cattle enter, with the feeder stock going out first and the bulls last, according to Barthel.
Feeder and saluter stock are sold by the pound, Barthel said: “If they’re going back to the country as dairy cattle or breeding cattle, if they’re going back with a farmer or a rancher, we’ll sell them by the head because it’ll bring a premium.”
Once livestock is sold, it is repinned according to buyer number, Barthel said, and digital checks are made out to the seller within 30 seconds of the sale.
Auctions can last anywhere from two to 12 hours, depending on the time of the year. In summer, sales last about two hours, as most stock is out to pasture and few are being brought in to sell, Barthel said.
“In the fall time, you could sell for 10 to 12 hours straight when cattle are moving. October is the biggest month, when sales go for 12 hours straight,” Barthel said.
“It’s just like a corn harvest,” he added about sales being higher in October. “ It’s the same way with cattle.”
Bidders range from independent farmers to corporate buyers.
”You might have someone in here who might buy one or two head and you might have someone who buys 500 or 900 head, and they’ll be a corporate buyer,” Barthel said.
Not all bidders bid in person: “All of our sales are broadcast live on Cattle USA,” Barthel said. “We’ve got about 400 bidders on there, and we sell about 20% of our sales on the internet every week."
Since bidders are able to bid online, cattle sales at the Perham Stockyards are not just limited to the Perham area.
“We sell cattle anywhere in the United States," said Barthel. "A lot of them (sales) are probably within 600 to 800 miles. The farthest we’ve probably gone is Missouri or Colorado.”