By MELISSA HART
EAST LANSING, Mich. — On a drizzly, cloudy Oct. 15, buyers crowded into a standing room-only tent and clamored at the chance to take home a piece of potential success, as the purebred Hereford herd was dispersed at the Michigan State University End of a Legacy Sale.
On the corner of Bennett and Cattle roads, the MSU Purebred Beef Cattle Teaching and Research Center was abuzz with beef cattle breeders from California to Maryland as they gathered to watch the end of an era sell, one by one. Dale Stith, the auctioneer from Maysville, Ky., was the first to welcome the crowd and said this sale was a beginning.
“I look at this sale as an opportunity, because while there isn’t going to be another Hereford sale here and there’s not going to be another set of these young people who come through here and learn how to fit and clip and feed, but these cattle, that you haven’t been able to buy before, are going to create many new beginnings and many new opportunities for those who are fortunate enough to buy them today,” he said.
Stith turned the introductions over to Ken Geuns, former faculty coordinator for the MSU Purebred Beef Herd, and he also welcomed the crowd. “I often wondered if we’d ever see this kind of a crowd at an MSU sale,” he began.
“It’s reminiscent of some really good times from years ago with some historic Angus sales, where it was standing room only. We are extremely pleased with your support with many of our endeavors throughout the years.”
Dr. David Hawkins, who assumed leadership of the purebred beef herd in 1973, gave some history. He said in 1965 there were four purebred herds of about 25 cows each: Polled Hereford, Angus, Hereford and Shorthorn.
Dr. Ron Nelson of the 1950s and ‘60s era guided the beef teaching unit with the philosophy that cattle at the university need to be superior to the cattle the beef management students had to work with at home. Throughout the years, MSU had held to that philosophy.
Hawkins said, “Budgets have always been tight and to have accomplished what this herd has done with only 50 cows and a limited budget is truly remarkable, and that is only possible because of the folks here at this sale.
“Because you opened up your herds, you allowed us to come in and select some of your best replacement heifers for MSU to improve the program. You donated semen, you donated embryos, you all wanted MSU to succeed and our success is because of that, and many of you have purchased cattle that have worked well in your programs, too.”
He went on to thank the managers who have served at the MSU Purebred Beef facility and highlight the accomplishments and awards the cattle won over the years.
Current manager of the MSU Purebred Beef Cattle Center, Cody Sankey, thanked specific individuals and concluded by saying, “When this sale is all said and done, people won’t remember how many head of cattle sold here today, they won’t even know what the high seller was, and that doesn’t really matter.
“What matters is this beef farm, this program that influenced thousands of students and shaped the lives of so many people that have gone on to be influential in the ag industry. After we shut off the lights in this old barn and close the door tonight, that’s what really matters.”
When the sale was under way bidding was lively and when the gavel fell for the last time, the sale had grossed $409,775 with an average of $6,034 per animal. The high seller at $19,000 was Lot 1, MSU Keepsake 32N. This female was the most consistent producer of show-ring competitive progeny in the MSU herd.
Her daughters include MSU Keepsake 14S, the 2008 Denver Reserve National Champion Female, and MSU Keepsake 24W-ET, the 2012 American Royal Reserve Grand Champion Female, plus several other division winners at the national Hereford shows in the past four years. Kyle and Tonya Perez of Nara Visa, N.M., purchased her.
The second-high seller at $15,000 was Lot 2B purchased by Andrew Hodges of Lebo, Kan. She was a daughter of the high seller. Lot 23, MSU D03 Pandora 12P was the third-high seller, at $13,500, and was purchased by John Bickelhop of Mt. Carroll, Ill.
Cattle were sold to buyers from 14 states, also including Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, Idaho, California and Florida and one Canadian province, Ontario.