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Greenhorn at the Sale Barn April 15, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm.


For quite some time now, we have been intending to get some goats and/or sheep.  We miss our old horse Gus, we’d like our children to get experiences raising animals of manageable size, and have many acres of pasture going to waste anyway. 

Back in the fall, we thought we had goats coming, but some in the herd came up sick.  Once they were well, I was getting on in my pregnancy and wasn’t sure I could chase down escape artists when Joe wasn’t home, so we passed on them.

Another problem that had us scratching our heads was how to keep the animals safe from predators (the previous owners of our farm had their goat herd wiped out in one night by neighbor dogs).  Our Pyrenees dog Klondike went missing around Thanksgiving, and despite our “LOST” posters and a lot of looking, he never turned up.  After coming up with a solution to that problem, we decided to go ahead with acquiring some kids (baby goats).

Yesterday afternoon, Rachel, Lydia, and I went to the sale barn in Thompson’s Station near our previous house while Joe and Benjamin headed to soccer practice.  We mostly went to watch and get a feel for how much animals go for, how the local sales work, and general education.  I didn’t sit down necessarily intending to purchase yesterday, but had brought one of the trucks just in case.

I’ve heard and read many times that sale barns are iffy places to buy livestock.  Some people try to unload poor and sickly animals on other unsuspecting people.  I didn’t want one of those people to be me.

I was acutely aware of how I stuck out in the assembled crowd.  I was one of only four women and the kids and I had been other places, so I wasn’t dressed in my “farm work clothes.” There I was in my spring-looking pastel blouse sitting amidst old farmers in overalls and faded flannel shirts.  I had a five year old and an infant in my lap to boot.  I didn’t exactly “blend in.”

As the animals were brought in one door, through the auction ring, and out the other door, I noticed some had been temporarily spray-painted with stripes of different colors on their backs.  I sheepishly asked a man sitting behind us what they meant.  He patiently explained how the “grading system” worked, how the animals were grouped, and so on. 

I watched for an hour or so, finally deciding I didn’t feel confident enough about what I would be getting to bid that day.  Then I noticed an Amish family sitting in the back and heard their animals announced as they were brought into the ring.  “Ah-ha!” I thought.  “The Amish folks wouldn’t try to sneak poor, sickly animals into a sale.  I’ll bid on those!”  So, I did.

As the bidding got started, I tried to make sure I understood how the animals were being offered.  I had noticed that sometimes the animals are auctioned at a dollar figure and sometimes they are sold by the pound.  Sometimes you are buying one animal, sometimes you are buying all of the ones in the ring times the price bid.  I raised my hand to signal the auctioneer when the ones I wanted came up and was pleased by the end of the auction to have won one billy and three nannies.


When the sale was over, I went into the office to settle up and was feeling a bit proud of myself for successfully navigating this new aspect of farm life.  I spoke with the Amish family that brought the goats and found out more about the animals.  I was starting to mentally pat myself on the back for making such good choices.  Just to keep my ego in check, a man stepped up right then and tapped me on the shoulder.  He said, “Excuse me ma’am, but you have manure on your backside.”  Keep me humble.

Before we left the sale barn, I needed to change Lydia.  I had her laid out on the passenger’s seat of the truck as a misty rain began.  I wanted to try to get the mess off my rear end before getting into the truck, so I asked Rachel if she could get it off for me.  What a picture we made- me wiping Lydia’s behind while Rachel wiped mine!









1. JB from IN - April 16, 2007

Sure would like to know what kind of solution you’ve found for dealing with neighbor’s dogs. I have neighbor who is constantly persecuting us. One of his favorites is letting his German Sheppard sneak over to grab a duck or scare the chickens and rabbits. I really want a goat this year too.

2. chickenmama - April 16, 2007

We know all too well the problem with neighbor dogs! (And raccoons, ‘possums, hawks, snakes…). Our solution will be in an upcoming posting. By that time, we should also have a good idea if our solution worked!

I have to tell you- the funniest (if you can call it that) thing about our worst predator is that the owner ASKS FOR EGGS from us all the time. Her dog (“Puppy”) ate about 20 of our chickens over the course of a year. For months, we didn’t know who owned the dog and it was wily as could be. My husband tried for the longest time to get it with a pellet gun to deter it, but you could tell a lot of people had been after that dog before. It kept a constant watch over its shoulder and took off out of range in a flash. Someone finally did get it for good because the lady told me he had disappeared. I wanted to hand her a bill for worth of the chickens + compensation for our upset and aggravation but decided to “turn the other cheek” instead. We give her eggs every couple of weeks and just think of it as a ministry opportunity- showing the love of Christ.

3. Amy - April 16, 2007

Good job! How exciting, purchasing goats your first auction. Chickens and goats and children, oh my!

FYI…the Amish horse auctions in northern MO are known for selling less than quality animals. Those in the know, purchase horses from them BEFORE the auction ever takes place. Just keep it in mind that you can’t always judge the quality of the animal according to who is offering it.

The mental image of you cleaning Lydia’s rear while Rachel cleaned yours is hilarious. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, who can we laugh at?

4. chickenmama - April 16, 2007

Thanks for your words of caution. It did occur to me after the fact that even the Amish have to get rid of their poor animals somewhere (if they aren’t eating them). Maybe they didn’t anticpate that their animals would be announced as belonging to them. The ones I got had been graded by the sale barn as “prime,” so I’m hoping they know what they are doing even if I’m not sure what I’m doing! 🙂 I am watching the goats for signs of illness, just in case.

We aren’t certain if we want to fool with meat goats long term or not. We hear and read that there is money to be made in it, but there are also some headaches. Purebred animals go for quite a bit around here and we weren’t ready to make that kind of financial commitment yet, especially until we KNOW we have solved our predator problem. These are crossbreeds and they should do until we determine how involved we want to get. If the kids decide they want to show goats in 4-H or we find a profitable market for selling purebred offspring, then we may go that route later. Our main criteria at this point are healthy, unrelated (genetically), and reasonably priced.

I’m with you that we have to be able to laugh at ourselves. A few years ago, there is no way I would have told that story on myself, but I am learning to be a little more humble and less vain as I mature.

5. noactive - January 11, 2010

Greenhorn at the Sale Barn .Thanks for nice post.I added to my twitter.

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