Marija B. Vader
Free Press Staff Writer
Grand Junction

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January 31, 2008
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Mooo-ving cows: Ranchers hoof it to new livestock sale barn

LOMA " For the first time in nearly a decade, an auctioneer's staccato voice trilled through a large crowd of people and a larger group of cows Wednesday.

The goal: Move cattle ownership from willing buyer to eager seller.

Six months in the making, the Western Slope Cattlemen's Livestock Auction this week launched its inaugural sale, brokering nearly 2,000 head of cattle.

The sale was the first cattle auction since Valley Livestock shuttered its chutes, according to records from the city of Fruita.

At Wednesday's auction, Mack resident Will Kennon bought 37 head of bred cows for his employer, the Gunderson Ranch, to fill out the ranch's U.S. Forest Service grazing permit. They run 700 cows on the Grand Mesa National Forest near Collbran.

If not for the new Loma sales barn, Kennon would have to pay more to buy cattle in Delta, Brush or points beyond.

Kennon appreciates a closer sale barn because it saves the ranch $4-a-mile transportation costs.

"If we had to go to Brush to buy these, it would cost us an extra $1,600 to $1,700," to truck the cows to their new Collbran range, Kennon said.

"Delta needed some competition," said Kennon's friend Jerry Brown. Kennon and Brown spent Thursday ear tagging, branding and inoculating the new cattle.

Jim McGee lives a quarter-mile from the sale barn.

"The main reason I like it is because it's so close," said McGee, who sold seven head at Wednesday's auction. "I think a lot of people have been waiting for this."

The sales barn is a new endeavor owned by Bill Martin and Loma native and fourth-generation cattleman Jim Brach. The office manager is Mack native Debbie Davis.

Martin was quick to praise his yard manager, Cliff Walls. Walls has lived in the Loma area more than 30 years and has worked with livestock his entire life.

"Cliff is the best part of this whole back," Martin said, motioning to the chutes, packed with Wednesday's sales, waiting to be trucked away.

Martin is a veteran cattle buyer from Greeley who has worked in the livestock industry his whole life. He recognized the need for another sale barn in western Colorado more than six months ago when approached about starting the business.

"There weren't a lot of markets here," said Martin, who dubbed the Western Slope "good cattle country.

"I like it anywhere cows grow," he said.

The livestock auction will eventually broker other animals, including lambs and goats.

For Wednesday's sale, sellers came from a large radius that included Carbondale, Rangely, Fruita, Parachute and central Utah. Sales take place every Wednesday at 10 a.m.

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The Post Independent Updated Jan 31, 2008 11:18PM Published Jan 31, 2008 09:12PM Copyright 2008 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.