Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Auction tale; a bit sad.

When I'm going to a livestock auction I always arrive at least an hour early so that I can watch the animals being unloaded.  This lets me see how the owner handles them; from the human I'm looking for whether they treat their animals kindly.  This is particularly important for me when I'm buying young animals.  The care taken when they're unloaded tells me a lot about the farmer. 

While I stand there there's often several other people around, and one fellow and I started talking about prices.  As a producer of animals, I'm interested in higher sale prices; buyers are interested in lower prices, and we talked about the merits of this livestock auction vs others that he'd been to. 

As a seller of animals you have the opportunity to set a reserve "no sale" price -- if the bidding doesn't reach that number, you take the animals back and don't sell them.  Often the auctioneer will ask you if you'd like to sell if the animal hasn't reached the reserve price, and you can say yes or no. 

This fellow I was talking to related that he'd seen a fellow a few weeks back bring in a batch of weaner pigs, and put a reserve on them; in due course these weaners came up on bid, and the bidding ended at $18 each, way below the reserve.  The auctioneer asked, and the farmer shrugged and said yes. 

And the next week this farmer brought his herd into the auction and sold them all and was out of the pig business. 

A few dollars higher price doesn't mean much to the typical consumer, but it means everything to the farmer; sometimes the difference between staying in business and moving on to something else.  It can be a labor of love, but you can love your local farmer by paying his price, recognizing that there is a cost to having good people raise your food, and that cost is worth paying.

I was the buyer of those pigs.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wowza. I wish more consumers could see this perspective. Laura has a pertinent post over on her blog about Local vs Organic. Seems more people in that circle would rather go with Local over Organic, unless they don't get what corporate Organic means.