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Gila County Cattle Growers Association Annual Auction
In 1935 struggling to survive the depression, Gila County ranchers were in the worst droughts to hit the area since the arrival of the first cattle in the 1870s. The cattle industry had declined from 30,000 head in 1925 to 15,000 head. The Government enacted a Drought Relief Program and the Gila County cattlemen benefited from the sale of 75,000 pounds of meat through the Gila Meat Packing Company to be distributed to the needy. July, 1945 saw 9,000 head of cattle valued at $600,000 shipped from Globe. Half to eastern markets. Half to Imperial Valley for fattening. 1,200 head were sold directly to Daou Packing Company.
As the rest of the West sold their cattle in the fall, it was always difficult for Gila County to get market prices. The buyers knew that all yearlings had to be removed by June 1st or a trespass would occur and the rancher's permit would be jeopardized. In April, 1966, the members voted to hold an association sponsored auction in May. County Extension Agent, Pat Gray assisted members in creating a marketing committee and put together a 'Sellers School' to help consignors increase saleability. Jack Nelson, Wilcox Livestock Auction, clerked the sale. Buster Mounce provided the facilities, classed the cattle and fed the hay for 50 cents a bale. The committee advertised fresh cattle that were brucellosis free with trucks, railroad and telephone facilities available. This first sale was a huge success and almost all of the 1,515 yearlings went to Colorado at above market prices. Eleven consignors and eight buyers had participated in the sale.
Ranchers who did not participate in 1966 were ready in 1967 and 3,511 cattle were consigned. Facilities were not adequate and two sale dates had to be established at the Globe Stock Yards. After the success of the sale, a decision was made to search for property and assess the cost of building a sale yard to be used once a year. The goal was to sell steers one day at the new facility and heifers the next day at the Globe Stockyards. Steve Bixby, Sr. and Bob Boice were able to secure a large tract of mine property from Miami Copper Company near Burch, Arizona. Construction of 76 steer pens at the Burch Yards began in April, 1968. Consignors received promissory notes for $10.00 per head advanced for construction costs.
The September/October 1968 issue of Agriculture in Arizona stated, 'Cattlemen and their bankers alike say the Gila Cattle Auction is the modern way to market cattle.' Due to the success of the sale, sellers from outside Gila County requested to join the annual sale. The by-laws dictated that anyone that did not ship from Globe in the past could not participate in the sale. The steer sale was held in the morning at the Burch Sale Yard and in the afternoon, heifers were sold at the Globe Stockyards. 1970 saw the largest sale to date with 2,709 steers at Burch and 1,937 heifers at the Stockyards. In 1976, the Gila County Cowbelles served lunch between the sales. In January, 1977, the Board of Directors voted to build 66 heifer pens at the Burch Sale Yard with a capacity of approximately 1900 head. A note was signed with the Valley Bank in March for the construction of the new pens. The sale that year included 2,152 head of steers and 7,791 head of heifers sold at the Burch Sale Yard with a selling fee of $4.00.
In 1983, in addition to purchasing a storage room for the yard and a permanent telephone installed at the yard. The 1988 sale income set a record $1,016,047.95 with 2,270 head sold. The sale continued with success through the 1990s. The 1991 sale had the highest average per head amount of $494.12 for the 1,464 steers and 1,195 heifers. The average amount per head increased to $559.23 in 1993. $1.5 million in sales occurred in 1994 for 2,033 steers and 1,444 heifers. Although sales remained good, the amount of cattle sold yearly during the remaining 1990s did not match the record 1994 sale.
In 2000, the USFS decreased grazing permits on Tonto Forest due to drought conditions. the Association was still able to have a spring sale in May 2000, drawing cattle from throughout the county. However, the 2001 sale numbers were down with only 941 steers and 817 heifers sold to the ten buyers attending. The 2002 sale was held in April due to drought conditions and the need to move cattle off the range with 866 steers and 620 heifers sold. No sale was held again until 2006. The May, 2012 GCCGA 45th annual sale grossed over $2.1 million for our ranchers. The most financially successful sale in the history of the Association. 1,384 steers sold for an average of $1.53 per pound. 1,084 heifers sold for an average of $1.48 per pound. April 2013 saw the first Internet Auction held by the GCCGA. 677 head of cattle, packaged in truck load lots, shipped from Burch Yard.
The GCCGA looks forward to many years ahead as we continue to navigate the ebbs and flows of managing our association and marketing our Gila County cattle in whatever format best serves the economic interests of our ranchers and ultimately our community.
© 2013 Gila County Cattle Growers Association
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