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Stories from the valley

The Art of Auctioning in Red Bluff

Contributed by Jennifer Harrison

“Growing up I thought every town had a bull auction” laughed Adam Owens.

Owens, sales manager of The Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale, which is the largest bull auction west of the Rockies, grew up in Red Bluff, which is about two hours north of Sacramento and happens to be the place to buy and sell a bull, gelding or stock dog. We stopped by the event, held every winter, to get a glimpse of the auction in action.

All about Agriculture

Going on seven decades, this particular bull auction represents vital parts of the Sacramento Valley: agriculture, ranching, farming and family.  While the main purpose is to provide a marketplace for breeders and buyers, it’s promoted as an agricultural event for all.   The auction offers a lot, from food (BBQ to cowboy coffee) to art and western wear, the five-day event draws quite a crowd.

woman and her dogDogs Delight

Most of the folks were lined up along the fence watching the stock dogs do their thing.

Stock dogs can be a vital aspect of a cattle operation, and the stock dog demonstration gave prospective buyers a chance to see the dogs work the cattle.  Paige Winebarger and her dog Toad came all the way from central Oregon to take part in the event. It was her first time entering this particular  stock dog competition and Toad ended up wowing a buyer, he went for $8,000 to a buyer from Willows, the second highest stock dog sale of the day! That brings us to the bulls…

Bulls: Record Numbers

Bull sales hit a record 1.56 million.  Over two hundred bulls were sold and as auctioneer Rick Machado puts it Red Bluff auction is a “big deal.”

While the sales numbers were up, the number of available bulls were down.  The California drought, entering its fourth year, is having an impact on the availability of bulls.  The cost of raising and maintaining cattle with rising feed prices is causing some producers to decrease the number of bulls they are raising.

“Numbers are down due to the drought” confirmed Owens.

With limited supply, demand was high, resulting in record sales numbers.  This all makes for one interesting auction, and if you ever get a chance, a bull auction is a must see.  They are a hidden gem of entertainment and a slice of Sacramento Valley life.