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CATTLE TODAY

IT'S THE PITTS -- CREATIVE BOVINE ENHANCER

by: Lee Pitts

Prior to 1986 the purebred cattle industry wasn't like it is now. Breeders today are committed to enhancing their respective breeds using the latest technology and genetics. Prior to the tax laws changing in 1986 there were a lot of doctors, lawyers and celebrities in the business, not necessarily to produce genetically superior cattle, but tax write-offs. You would come to my sale and buy $500,000 worth of cattle and take an investment tax credit of $50,000 right off your tax bill and then I would come to your sale and do the same thing. The primary accomplishment was that we both got to keep a little bit more of our own money.

As a “field editor” during this period, one of my jobs was to go to your ranch, take photos and generate an ad campaign for your upcoming sale. Then I'd work ring and write a sale report afterwards. My initial contact with the breeder usually consisted of a ranch tour and an inspection of the high priced, often inferior, cattle. But I couldn't come out and say that or I wouldn't have sold any advertising. So, as a creative bovine enhancer I had to come up with comments that were true... but not really. I'd say things to the breeders like:

“That bull will certainly leave an impact on the cattle industry.” (It's gonna take 50 years to eradicate his bad genes from the breed.)

“I've never seen a bull like yours before.” (Did you forget to feed him?)

“He sure has an interesting muscle pattern.” (I've seen more meat on a flea.)

“I'm sure when someone uses that bull on their cows they'll see a genetic explosion.” (The Holstein blood in him is really going to come out.)

“You wouldn't have seen a bull like him 20 years ago.” (He'd have been a steer.)

“I have never seen a fuller tail. And look at those incredible dew claws.”

“That calf certainly has all four feet moving in the right direction.”

“I like his sensitive and flaring nostrils and I've never seen such large hooves on an animal that size!” (Are you sure he doesn't carry the gene for club foot?)

“He certainly is an active scamp.” (He's got such a lousy disposition I couldn't get close enough to take a decent picture even with a telephoto lens.)

“That sure is a beautiful fence you built there.” (Don't worry, by the time the photo touchup artists are done you won't even recognize your ugly heifer.)

“You hardly notice that old pinkeye scar and that lump jaw sure healed nicely.”

After the sale I had to write a flowery sale report that did justice to the person's ad budget. A scrapbook-worthy sale report was also necessary so that the breeder would not be embarrassed in front of his fellow tax dodgers. In one case that I know of, my sale report was used in a tax court to prove that the advertiser was actually engaged in a real business. I wrote things in sale reports like...

“The animals in this sale offered something entirely new to the industry and the buyers responded accordingly.” (It was a wreck.)

“A standing room only crowd gathered for the sale.” (The cheapskate forgot to rent bleachers for the auction.)

“The cattle all found new homes today.” (Yeah, at the slaughter house.)

“A snowstorm and/or the first day of deer hunting season and/or road construction kept the crowds away.” (The owner blamed me for the disastrous sale.)

“It was a rapid fire, quick and snappy auction.” (We only got two head out of 60 sold and I left the minute the auctioneer's gavel hit the block.)

I'm glad the tax laws were changed as I was beginning to suffer from truth burnout, a disease prevalent amongst road agents of the period. Sadly, after this early education I found that I was only suited for one job: I became a journalist. I still regularly offer the same creative contributions only for much less money.

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