Thursday, November 21, 2013
By Jason Ferguson
Revenue was up at the 48th annual Custer State Park Fall Classic Bison Auction, as 331 buffalo were auctioned to the highest bidders on Saturday, Nov. 16, for a total of $478,070, up from $405,370 last year.
Gary Brundage, resource program manager at Custer State Park, said about 60 more head were sold this year and that only the heifer calves and yearling bulls saw prices higher than a year ago.
“Prices were off a little bit. I thought we might be a little stronger, but it’s hard to predict the market,” he said. “But we’re really satisfied with the way things went.”
As usual, 2-year-old breeding bulls brought in the highest dollar figure per animal, at $2,484. Heifer calves averaged $1,194, up from $1,153 a year ago.
Other averages from the auction were $819 for mature cows, $1,130 for open cows, $2,174 for 2-year-old heifers, $1,198 for yearling heifers, $1,194 for heifer calves, $1041 for bull calves, $1,533 for yearling bulls and $1,850 for 2-year-old grade bulls.
Brundage said there were less than 40 registered bidders on site, but many people took advantage of the opportunity to bid online, a first for the auction this year. At the start of the sale there were 80 bidders online, while over 300 people visited the site during the course of the sale.
“I think it went well. It gave us a lot of exposure,” Brundage said of the online bidding.
The event rife with unusual activity from the animals, which Brundage described as “agitated.” One bull flipped a Custer State Park staff member over the auction arena fence, while another tried to jump over some fencing and got its leg stuck in the fencing, requiring park staff to pry it loose. One even dropped dead in the middle of the arena, apparently of a heart attack. The animal was breathing heavily as it entered the arena, before lying down and dying.
“That’s not the first time (that has happened). We had one a long time ago,” Brundage said. “She was stressed out and something gave. That animal was too high-strung and stressed out. They were a little jumpy.”
For the past 48 years, the park has made its surplus bison available for sale to the private sector. A significant amount of park revenue comes from the bison sale and goes toward continued operations of the state park system. The money is deposited into its parks and recreation revolving account, which comes back to the parks to fund operating costs.