Four Star Supply, Inc.

Call the Market

By ShayLe Stewart
DTN Livestock Analyst

The last couple of weeks have been hard on everyone. From the parents who had to find somewhere or someone to watch their children because they no longer are in school, to the oil field workers who have been laid off, to the cattlemen who have seen the prices of their calves become a fraction of what they should be.

Things at our place have been no different.

This week, my husband, Jimmy, and I are hosting our annual Big Country Genetics Bull Sale. If you would have told me last year that we would be planning our sale in a chaotic world that was trying to balance a normal life alongside a newborn virus that has merely shut down our country -- I would have thought you were crazy.

Hosting an annual production sale is no easy task! From clipping and semen-checking the bulls, to designing and editing the catalog, to putting the final touches on the sale day's meal, there is an enormous amount of stress that comes with the hype.

When the virus started affecting the United States, we became anxious about the sale. For one, we didn't know if we were legally going to be allowed to host the event, and then secondly, this is our livelihood -- we were worried about how the day was going to turn out. But, as time has progressed, thankfully the importance of agriculture was seen by everyone as an essential business.

The ways of buying and selling cattle are not limited like they used to be. Sales are now posted online where buyers can look up a bull's pedigree, watch his individual video to evaluate its structure from afar, and even bid and purchase a bull through an online platform. The need and necessity of actual physical sales will never go away, but in times like these the development of the video auctions is saving rural America.

The week of the sale is especially crazy. Jimmy's phone has been ringing non-stop, people come early to look at the bulls, and tying up loose ends before the sale is essential. While chatting with cow/calf producers from across the nation, you'd be amazed at what they've had to say while managing the COVID-19 situation.

Producers are blessed and thankful to have something to do. Although ranchers would welcome a day off here and there, they are thankful to have something to do in these uncertain times. While other industries are completely shut down and workers are sent home to weather the storm, cattlemen are outside, tending to their livestock as they always would.

Normalcy is important in times like this. Chaos and uncertainty bring an unmeasurable amount of anxiety and worry into people's lives. Through this, cattlemen have been able to distance themselves from some of the craziness of the world and remember that they still have their job to do.

Cattlemen still need to feed their cattle, calves still need to be tagged and tended to, cows still need to get bred, and thankfully, some of the day-to-day tasks seem more like blessings than burdens in these times.

As for our operation and our bull sale, that's been our mindset and outlook. We know that it's essential that everyone abides by the government's protocols and that everyone tries to help mitigate the chances of spreading the virus. But as we look to our day, and as we take every day with stride, we know that we still have a duty to carry out our normal business and to serve our customers and our industry.

Challenges aren't foreign to agriculture; ranchers are accustomed to freezing snowstorms, wildfires and tough cattle markets. And although these times are like never before, agriculture will be the backbone of our country until this storm passes. It's more important than ever that we support one another and help ease the pain of these times.

ShayLe Stewart can be reached at