Merv Nykoliation and his family have been in the purebred Charolais business for over 30 years on their farm near Lenore. Every spring around this time, they truck their bulls to market at the annual Cattleman’s Classic Bull Sale in Virden.
But this year, they decided to bring the market to the bulls. The Nykoliation family held the auction – which morphed into a community event – at their farm, accepting bids in person and over the Internet. Nykoliation says his farm is the first Charolais operation in Manitoba to conduct a bull sale this way, but it won’t be the last.
He’s seeing more and more producers switching to this stay-at-home model.
“It started in Western Canada I’d say maybe six or seven years ago, and has been moving eastward. I’d say about 25 per cent of bull auctions in Canada are now done this way.”
Tri-N’s annual bull sales held at the auction mart have always been successful, even breaking a record in 2012 with the highest-selling bull in Canada. And last spring, Tri-N’s average price hit $8,100 making it one of the top Charolais sales in the country.
So if the sales model was working, why change the venue?
Nykoliation says it came down to several significant benefits. It reduces stress on the animals by letting them stay on familiar turf. And holding a farm-based auction eliminates the cost of hauling 50+ head of cattle to Virden, which he estimates saved Tri-N between $10,000 and $15,000 for this sale alone, although they had to invest in bleachers and penning for the event.
At last Saturday’s sale, Tri-N Charolais bulls were bid on by cattlemen who either travelled to the farm or entered their bids remotely, having researched the animals online beforehand. They were sold to customers in five provinces and eight states, as far south as Texas.
The average bull price was $6,881 with a high of $21,000 to Cliff Lee Enterprises of Missouri. (Eight Red Angus bulls from Silver Creek Farms were also on offer that day.)
There’s one more benefit to hosting a bull auction at home, says Nykoliation: the neighbours dropped by and turned it into a party.
“I really enjoyed the community aspect,” said Nykoliation. “A lot of the neighbours came to look at the cattle, have a great meal and a visit. There were children too, it was a nice sunny day, so they took a look at the cattle. It was a good day and we’ll definitely do it again.”