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Co-Mingling In Kawartha

Kevin Barker is an energetic fellow. He and his father and brother run a large cow-calf operation near Woodville, Ont., a small town in the eastern part of the province, about 60 kilometres northwest of Peterborough. He is also the manager of the Kawartha Lakes Co-operative Auction Market in Woodville as well as running his own farm auction business. The cooperative has about 100 shareholders and investors and the business has expanded steadily since it was established in the late 1990s. In addition to being the manager Kevin is also the auctioneer. One of his pet projects is the Peterborough/Victoria Co-mingled Stocker Sale that was first held in the fall of 2008. The second sale will be held this November.

“I got the idea from the Bruce County Cattlemen who’ve had a number of good co-mingled sales,” says Kevin. “I called the president of the group and got the protocol they use. Then we had a couple of meetings to explain the benefits and the process. The first year we had 10 members consign to the sale.”

Kevin is confident and outgoing and getting ready for his weekly stocker sale he has a cheerful word for the buyers as they file into the auction. He knows everyone by name. Born and raised near Woodville, he is the fourth generation of his family to farm in the area. When he was a young boy he would take trips with his grandfather to the auction market in nearby Lindsay.

“When I went to the auctions with my grandfather,” says Kevin, “I was always fascinated by the auctioneer. The rhythm and cadence intrigued me and I thought I wouldn’t mind trying that. I went to auction school in Mason City, Iowa and I really enjoy the work. I like cattle and I like people and it’s nice to get out and see how the rest of the world works.”

The co-mingled sale takes calves born between January 1 and June 30. Calves born later are too small for the sale. The members follow a comprehensive vaccination, deworming, dehorning and castration protocol. The vaccinations are given in two cycles, the first in the spring and the second in the fall. The second vaccinations have to be done at least two weeks before the sale. The protocol uses live vaccines, with nine different shots given over the two cycles.

“It is a lot of shots,” admits Kevin, “but once they’re in the chute it’s no big deal. We use live vaccines because unlike killed vaccines the cattle don’t need a booster shot two weeks after the first. In this area we have some large ranch-type operations and it’s not always easy to get the cattle in for a second shot. It’s really the buyers’ preference. They have more confidence buying cattle that have been given live vaccines.”

The calves have to be dehorned and the bull calves castrated at least six weeks prior to the sale and given their second round of vaccinations at least two weeks before. All the calves must also have an RFID tag with age verification and birth certifi cates filed with the auction market. The animal health protocol is overseen by the local veterinarian who also follows up with the buyers to ensure they are satisfied.

“Last year we had 500 calves in the sale,” says Kevin. “This year we hope to have 800. I would say that at the first sale the calves brought a premium of 15 to 20 cents a pound over other similar local sales. In the future I’d like to see it grow with more members and bigger groups of calves.”

When the calves arrive the day before the sale they are weighed individually and sorted into uniform groups that mix animals from a number of sellers.

“One of the advantages of a comingled sale,” says Kevin, “is that even if producers only have a small number of calves they get the benefit of selling in large, uniform groups. And we sort them pretty fine. Last year one seller had 12 calves in the sale that sold in 10 different groups.”

When the calves arrive the weight of each is recorded and a formula is used

PETERBOROUGH/VICTORIA CATTLEMEN’S CO-MINGLED VACCINATION PROTOCOL

2009 calves (1st shots) in spring: Calves over three weeks of age:

Bovishield Gold 5 2 mL IM (vaccine) Covexin 8/Tasvax 8 4 mL SQ (blackleg)

(1 shot each either spring or fall) One Shot 2 mL SQ (pasteurella) Dystosel 1 mL/100 lb. SQ (white muscle, selenium)

2009 calves (2nd shot) summer/fall: Bovishield Gold 5 Ultrabac 7/Somubac One Shot Dystosel

Dectomax Pour On

2 mL IM

5 mL SQ

2 mL SQ

1 mL/100 lb. SQ

5 mL/110 lb.

to factor in a pencil shrink. After they are sorted each calf is assigned a percentage of the weight of the entire group.

“The group is weighed again just before they go in the ring,” says Kevin. “If the weight is different than what our formula predicted we can adjust the pencil shrink up or down.”

Wayne Telford president of the Peterborough County Cattlemen, is an avid supporter of the sale. He helps with the preparations the day before and works the ring on sale day.

“It’s a lot of work,” says Wayne, “but it’s worth it. The day before the sale when we’re unloading the cattle Kevin is beside the chute studying them as they come off the truck. He has a special talent for sorting cattle into groups. Kevin’s wife Denise is a big part of it. She looks after all the numbers and the computer work.”

“When we’re sorting,” says Kevin, “we’re looking for confirmation and style. Are they straight, long, thick or thin? We try to give people what they’re looking for in terms of quality. The average group is about 20 head.”

Andy MacDougall farms 20 kilometres northeast of Woodville. He consigned 72 calves to the first sale and is planning to send a similar number this year.

“I think the heifers especially sold well,” says Andy. “The steers maybe sold closer to what they were bringing at other sales, but really any sale is a crap shoot and its worth doing whatever you can to get the best price.”

Andy is supportive of the comprehensive protocol.

“It is a little extra work,” says Andy. “The only slight problem I had was with the pasteurella shot in the spring. I think it held the calves back for a week or so.”

In 2008 the auction market started advertising three months before the sale and it attracted a larger crowd than for a regular sale. After the first sale Kevin was pleased with the positive feedback from both the sellers and the buyers.

“This year we have buyers waiting specifically for the co-mingled sale,” says Kevin. “Last year we had one buyer show up who had bought calves at other sales and had all kinds of disease problems with them. Before the co-mingled sale he wasn’t sure he was going to buy anything. He ended up buying 41 calves and he told me after he never had to touch a single one of them. It’s all about buying with confidence.”

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