The Ocala Graded Bull & Select Heifer Sale is held annually but at this year’s 60th anniversary, more bulls were auctioned off than any other year.
“We’ve had less than 100 bulls for the last seven years, and this year we have 165 or so bulls,” said Mark Shuffitt, a livestock agent for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Marion County Extension Office.
Shuffitt said the reason for this increase is due to the sale being held in October, as opposed to traditionally being held in January.
Cattle farmers are more likely to purchase bulls in the fall so that their calves are born the following fall. Calves born in the fall grow up healthier because they spend the first months of their lives in cooler weather, he said.
Consigners, or people selling bulls, came from as far as Ohio and Missouri, and 11 breeds of cattle were present at the auction, Shuffitt said.
“The cattle market is very good, and Florida has a very large cattle industry with a very large bull market,” said Todd Thrift, a UF/IFAS extension beef cattle specialist. “We have always been a market where bulls come from out of state.”
Terry Teuton, a Marion County native and one of the five graders at the sale, said he is confident in the quality of the bulls being auctioned off this year.
“I think we have the best set of bulls we’ve had in many, many, many years,” he said.
Bulls are graded like exams in school are, and Shuffitt said the sale will only auction off bulls that receive a grade of C or higher. The highest grade a bull can get is an A+.
Thrift said bulls could sell between $4,000 and $5,000. However, he said the bull that sold for the highest price at this year’s auction was an angus bull from Black Crest Farms in Sumter, South Carolina that went for $61,000.
“Cattle sellin’ high right now,” said Keith Prasse, a cattleman at the sale consigning beefmaster bulls, a hearty and heat-resistant breed of cattle, from Apalachee Beefmasters in Bethlehem, Georgia.
The bull sale is put on by the Marion County Cattlemen’s Association, and all of the work is done by volunteers.
“There’s an awful lot of people who put in an awful amount of volunteer hours to make this happen,” Shuffitt said. “There’s not a paid person on staff.”
The sale is an important part of the community because it’s one of the biggest fundraisers for the Marion County Cattleman’s Association, Shuffitt said. It uses the money to sponsor youth cattle shows, to give out scholarships and to put on two family dinners during the year.
Having a bull sale in North Central Florida also does a lot to help local cattle farmers. Thrift said transportation costs for cattle can be expensive, so Florida cattlemen can save a lot of money by attending the Ocala sale.
“It mainly helps our people in the cattle business and the agricultural industry to have bulls for our own areas, but it helps impact the whole state as well,” Teuton said. “Most of the bulls that leave here today will probably be within 50 miles of this sale.”
The next annual sale will be held on Oct. 25, 2016.