Pitts: Bull sales bring the best —and worst — potential buyers
The bull business is very competitive and purebred people play to win. Because there’s a limited number of buyers, breeders spend a fortune on color ads and hire their own field men to exhort ranchers to come to their sale.
I knew one breeder who passed out a hundred dollar bill for every bull a ranch manager bought, and once I even saw a bull breeder buy the county fair show steer that belonged to the granddaughter of a large rancher, hoping it would pay off. Sometimes their marketing efforts are for naught, as in the following scenario I’ve seen play out many times.
On the morning of the sale a “big rancher” calls from the airport and asks for a ride to the sale because he needs to buy 30 bulls. Knowing such a buyer could make or break his sale, the breeder pulls out all the stops. (Note: The potential buyer doesn’t have to be male. We held up a sale once so a Texas oil heiress could get there.)
The purebred breeder asks his most presentable marketeer, his wife, who is swamped with fixing lunch for 300 people, to go pick up Mr. and Mrs Big Shot. She goes to the wrong airport, not realizing that the big buyer’s pilot had to land at the big city airport an hour away because the local air strip was not long enough to land his King Air, Lear Jet or Citation.
After some confusion she gets to the right airport and greets a 60ish man wearing a diamond studded cutting horse belt buckle, a pair of Luchesse boots, pressed Wranglers and a 20 X black Stetson. On his arm is his wife (or mistress) who is at least 20 years younger, wearing a rock on her finger that’s worth more than the hired hand’s house. They’re both wearing matching black windbreakers with “Billion Dollar Ranch” embroidered on them.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch the breeder, who has other things to worry about, puts out clean towels, a full roll of toilet paper and sprays room deodorizer throughout the house, which is his definition of housekeeping.
Once the Big Shots arrive, the breeder fawns over them, driving them around to show them the mothers of the bulls. When the big bull buyer makes a compliment about a hard working Border Collie the purebred breeder gives him a pup. The VIPs are invited into the house so they don’t have to use the Porta Potties or eat hamburgers using plastic plates and plastic knives that break on impact.
The breeder gives the couple, and their pilot who tagged along, swag bags full of monogrammed pens, gloves, tally books, sorting sticks and windbreakers. To really make an impression, the sterling silverware and China are used for the first time in years as the guests are served steaks and wine to loosen them up.
When the publication guys who sold big ad budgets to the breeder hear about the big bull buyer they all claim him as a subscriber and one even claims a common ancestor.
Then, right before the sale is about to start, the big bull buyer asks for a ride back to the airport. Shocked, the breeder asks the field men if Mr. and Mrs. Big Shot left an order for any bulls. But the field men, who just an hour ago were best buddies with the wealthy couple, now deny they ever knew them and sadly report they didn’t leave an order to buy any bulls.
Meanwhile, the volume buyer who does buy 30 bulls and spends a quarter million bucks in the process turns out to be an elderly couple who look like they don’t have five bucks between them. When the breeder frantically calls the bank named on the check he is told the old couple has a credit score of 850 and that if they ever pulled all their money out it would break the bank and start a nationwide recession.
“Give them anything they want,” were there banker’s exact words.
The breeder was so busy with Mr. and Mrs. Big Shot that he never even met the real volume buyers who ate their hamburgers off the plastic plates, used the Porta Potties, never saw the cow herd and didn’t even get as much as one free ballpoint pen. ❖