Pitts: Buying Bulls for a cheapskate
December 27, 2016
For years purebred bull breeders didn't get paid what they deserved for making such a big investment in better genetics, so I'm glad to see them finally getting paid handsomely for their better bulls.
Having said that, the rise in price has made it difficult on cheapskates like my friend Patch who never spent more than a $1,550 on a bull before in his life. Despite being one of the richest guys in the county he's a sub-optimal spender who wears big patches on his drugstore pants. Hence the nickname.
Patch is tighter than the wires on a brand new fence, looks in vending machines for any change left behind and worships the almighty dollar. In his 66 years of life he has never been known to utter the words, "Keep the change."
Most ranchers I know study all the bull sale catalogs and step up when it comes to buying better bulls because they know it will pay off when it comes time to sell their calves. Not to mention the added bonus of building a front pasture kind of cow herd.
Granted, the typical wife of a rancher may be driving a 15-year-old Yugo but the rancher will not hesitate to spend $7,000 for a bull.
Not so Patch. For 35 years he has called me before every bull sale season and asked me to buy a couple bulls for him but to keep the price under $1,500 each.
I didn't mind buying bulls for him if he would just keep it a secret, but no, every time his calves hit the sale ring he'd stand up, interrupt the auctioneer and say, "These calves were all sired by bulls selected by Lee Pitts." And then the sorriest looking calves you ever saw would sell fifteen bucks behind the market toppers.
Yes sir, if you wanted to crash the market then Lee Pitts was your guy. He never mentioned his cheap budget for bulls or that his wallet was rusted shut. One year I went fifty bucks over my limit on a better type of bull and you should have heard Patch cry.
Needless to say, it has become increasingly difficult to fill Patch's bull order and when he called last time the conversation went like this.
"Hey Pittsy, I need three bulls this year so what's it gonna cost me?"
"Well, I don't know if you've been paying attention but good bull sales are averaging $5,000 to $7,000 and I even heard of one sale that averaged over $15,000."
The phone went dead for a while before Patch said in a weak voice, "Did you say $15,000?" he gurgled? "That must be on just a few head."
"Nope, I'm talking sales of four and five hundred bulls averaging $5,000 to $15,000!"
"So you're saying you can't find me three registered bulls for $1,500 apiece plus free delivery?"
"Nope. That would be harder to do than finding the elbows on a blowfly. I could not do that even if I bought them out of the slaughter run at the sales yard. Good bulls cost more. I heard of one ranch manager buying 15 head and averaging $10,000 apiece. Another bull sold for a valuation of a million bucks!"
You should have heard the wailing on the other end of the line. "That's insane," whimpered Patch. "I bet the livestock insurance salesmen are living high."
"Oh come on Patch, spend some of all that money you've stockpiled. You might as well, after all, you can't take it with you."
"No, but I can go to the cemetery in a much better car."
"Where you're going Patch and the kind of life you've led it wouldn't do you any good if you could take it with you because it's just gonna burn up anyway."
"Lee, if I bought a bull for $5,000 he'd have to sleep in the house where I could keep tabs on him. I'd have to serve his feed off the fine China and buy one of those $100,000 live-in trailers like Trevor Brazile's got so I could take the bull with us when we went on vacation."❖