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Records fall again in Red Bluff

Auctions of bulls, dogs and geldings set all-time highs.

Tim Hearden

January 30, 2024

3 Min Read
Bulls in arena
Potential buyers fill the stands of the Don Smith Pavilion in Red Bluff, Calif., as bulls are judged on Jan. 26, one day before they were auctioned off in the 83rd Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale.Tim Hearden

With producer expenses skyrocketing and uncertainty lingering in the cattle industry, bidders nonetheless shattered spending records for bulls, horses and dogs at the 2024 Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale, one of the West’s marquee livestock events.

Bidders during the Northern California extravaganza Jan. 23-27 paid $72,000 for a horse, $50,000 for a dog and nearly $1.6 million combined for 259 bulls that sauntered through the Don Smith Pavilion at the Tehama District Fairgrounds.

The horse, sold by Legacy Pro Rodeo of Corvallis, Ore., to Walt and Mary Vermedahl of Cave Creek, Ariz., was among 65 horses that sold Jan. 26 for a combined $1.43 million, easily eclipsing the $1.12 million collected for horses in 2023. The previous all-time high bid for a horse in Red Bluff was $48,000 in 2022.

The dog, a border collie named RCS Luee, was sold by Henry VanOrnum of Cave Junction, Ore., to Montague, Calif.-based Elwood Ranches. The sale, which contributed to a total of $159,750 for 13 dogs auctioned Jan. 26, handily topped the previous high of $45,000 for a dog two years ago.

Bulls sold for an average of $6,147.10, flirting with 2015’s all-time high of $6,554. This year’s top-priced bull was a $16,500 supreme champion Hereford sold by Whitney McCord of Junction City, Ore. Last year’s top bid for a bull was $25,000.

“Right now cattle prices are extremely high, so we should have a pretty good sale,” event manager B.J. Macfarlane said Jan. 26 before the bidding began. “The (prices for) females were really good, and the feeder cattle were really strong, too.”

Buyers began to reach into their wallets Jan. 25 during the 16th annual online feeder and replacement heifer sale, sponsored by Western Video Market in Cottonwood, Calif. More than 60 lots were sold, with weaned heifers topping out at $347 per hundredweight and weaned steers reaching $367.50 per hundredweight.

Eye on prices

The annual auctions can serve as a barometer for where live cattle prices are headed for the coming year, and this year's big totals are consistent with a nationwide strengthening of cattle prices as extended drought in much of the western U.S. has led to fewer beef cattle in the nation’s herd.

Consigners in Red Bluff told Farm Press it could be another year or longer before the herd begins to recover.

“We’re still pretty stable,” said Ken Faulkner of Powell Butte, Ore. “But the cost of everything is higher, so we should be higher but we’re not.”

Craig Blevins brought five Angus bulls from northwestern Montana to be auctioned. Red Bluff is the only sale he participates in other than private sales, he said.

“These were yearlings we used in our herd, and we bring them as 2-year-olds,” Blevins said. “People here like 2-year-olds, so we bring them (to Red Bluff) and move them.”

The 83rd bull sale highlighted nearly a week of activities that included a big trade show, a buyer-consigner dinner and a bull-riding competition. As they began doing during COVID-19, organizers limited attendance on auction days to consigners, trade-show vendors and those who purchased one-day and three-day passes.

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