Finding the real: Cattle coming off the rye pinpoint the strength of America

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
Pratt Livestock is a great place to see where it all comes together. Cattle sales take place there every Thursday.

At Pratt Livestock the other day, I found myself completely fascinated with a phrase I heard repeatedly from the singsong of the auctioneer: these cattle are coming in right off the rye.

It’s that time of year when young cattle that have had almost a year to grow are brought to the sale barn to continue on to the next phase of meat production.

I was just struck by how real it was that day at the auction. The stock coming into the the sale ring was in excellent shape. These beef had been eating well, had good genetics behind them as evidenced by similar size and conformation. They were strong and hearty, and just like the cowboys and cattlemen moving them through pens, shutes, sale ring and onto trucks for the next stage of the journey, they moved with confidence.

This was where the rubber met the road, so to speak. This was the payoff for the rancher, this was the end result of planting rye as a cover crop to hold the soil for spring rotation, this was a gathering place for hard-working men and women, this was where a nod of head could mean thousands of dollars changing hands, and this was the point where all things that happen in America come to fruition.

Almost everyone I know likes to eat, and a high percentage of them like to eat beef. The past year has been a roller coaster for many in agriculture, particularly the cattle business, as COVID-19 created packer-plant shutdowns, exposure of price cuts to the producers and smalltown locker backups as all of America dealt with the impact of a pandemic.

Those black, red and some smoke-colored cattle born 10-to-12 months ago don’t care what happens in the world. They just eat that rye grass and grow to desired capacity, monitored by men and women who have seen it all, bad weather, bad prices, bad politics, equipment failure, family breakdowns because of economic stress. But those same men and women have also seen brilliant Kansas sunrises and sunsets, heard the call of a night owl while checking calves, relaxed to the creaking leather of the horse saddle while riding fence, and enjoyed the fruits of labor that sizzled on a grill.

These good people feed America, and we need to remember how important they are. Those of us not daily involved in the cattle business, or any form of agriculture, are not that far from it. Who doesn’t have a dad or mom, grandparent or other relative still telling stories about growing up country?

Let’s not forget those roots and values in the days to come, when new government policies take effect under new leadership. Now, more than ever, it is time for those who understand agriculture to share their knowledge with those who may have forgotten where they came from, what makes them strong, what makes our country strong.

There is always a little good and a little bad in the world, but in the whole of it, coming off the rye is something good to remember, something to hang on to.