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Heifers change hands at Brighton sale

BRIGHTON — For the third consecutive year, ranchers traveled from throughout the Southeast on Aug. 30 to buy and sell heifers at the Cattle Country Replacement Sale in Brighton.

Michael Sturgess takes bids and alerts the auctioneer with hand motions during the Cattle Country sale inside the Florida Seminole Veterans Building in Brighton. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

Before the auction action began, cattlemen and cattlewomen took a close look at the 948 bred (pregnant) and open (not yet bred) heifers for sale. The Fred Smith Rodeo Arena served as a temporary barn with animals in pens surrounded by wide walkways. As the auction time of 1 p.m. drew nearer, those walkways filled up with more and more ranchers deciding on which lots they wanted to bid.

As auctioneer Tommy Barnes conducts the auction, Salacoa Valley Farms general manager Chris Heptinstall and the Tribes Natural Resources Director Alex Johns observe and record the results at the Cattle Country Sale. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

The Seminole Tribe had 110 head in 22 lots for sale, including animals from the Salacoa Valley Farms in Georgia.

The sale included 550 head sired by Salacoa stock and 374 head bred by Salacoa stock. The farm’s newest breed, the Super-American, sold well and for a higher than average price, according to Natural Resource Director Alex Johns.

“This is an opportunity to showcase ranchers in Florida and make sure they can implement our genetics into their cow operations,” said Brighton Board Rep. Larry Howard. “I hope it will do for them what it did for us.”

A group of heifers huddle together in the Fred Smith Rodeo Arena as they await a buyer at the Cattle Country sale. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

The Tribe’s cattle program falls under the purview of the Board and Howard explained that heavier cows bring more revenue. The Tribe’s cows are mostly Brangus, which do well in the Florida heat and humidity. He said word has spread about the auctions.

“This is more than a business, it’s a way of life and it’s still going strong,” Howard said. “Hats off to the crew, from Alex to the cowhands. This is a group effort and we take pride in what we do. It’s a family operation and we continue to strive for more in the future.”

Brighton Councilman Andrew J. Bowers Jr. perused the aisles and looked closely at the animals; he was looking to buy.

“It’s been pretty successful in the past,” Councilman Bowers said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Chris and Rhonda Green wanted to buy about 20, or “however many we can afford,” for their Big Cypress herd.

Buyers examine the heifers for sale before the Cattle Country Replacement Sale in Brighton’s Fred Smith Rodeo Arena on Aug. 30. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

Clint Raulerson runs four ranches in the Immokalee area and came to purchase about 100 bred and open heifers. Last year he bought 60 head.

“This is the best collection of commercial females in the Southeast, maybe the country,” Raulerson said. “Bidding will get tough, but there is some value here.”

Charles Crispin, of Okeechobee, was looking for five to 10 heifers to add to his cow/calf operation.

“The quality here is very good,” Crispin said. “They have some of the best producers in the area and it shows their efforts over time.”

By the time the auction started, the room was filled with buyers and sellers eager to get the best price possible. Joel Beverly, of the XL Bar Ranch in Arcadia, had 63 F1 Tigerstripes and other breeds for sale. F1 means first generation animals. The Tigerstripes are a cross between a Hereford and Brahman. He’s been selling at this auction since the first one and said he gets more money per head for them than other breeds.

“This is a good outlet for us,” Beverly said. “Everything else is Brangus type and we are the only ones selling F1s. It’s a hard deal; the mamas are Brahman and have a bad reputation. They have a bad temperament and have to be handled differently. But everyone wants her babies.”

Stanlo and Todd Johns had 10 bred and eight open heifers from their Sweet Johns Farm for sale, all sired by Salacoa Brangus bulls.
“I don’t know what they will go for,” Stanlo Johns said. “But like everyone else in the room, I’m hoping for top dollar. We’ve got the best ones out here with the best bloodline.”

Before the auction began, Jim Handley, executive vice president of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, presented FCA President Alex Johns, who also serves at the Tribe’s natural resource director, with a framed copy of a Seminole Tribune article announcing his inauguration.

“Alex made a six year commitment to us,” Handley said. “He is the new Cowkeeper.”

Auctioneer Tommy Barnes, Salacoa Valley Farms General Manager Chris Heptinstall and Alex Johns manned the head table during the auction as Jimmy Fetner, Charlie Wood and Michael Sturgess skillfully took bids from the crowd. The cadence of the auctioneer combined with the staccato yelps of the bid takers filled the room much like an orchestra fills a concert hall. Everyone was intensely watching and listening.

From time to time, Barnes added some pearls of wisdom to the proceedings.

“The only difference between these open heifers and those bred is about two seconds,” Barnes said.

By the end of the day, some Tribal members increased the size of their herds; Councilman Bowers bought 10.
Crispin bought 10 bred heifers and said he was lucky to be able to buy them. Beverly sold his heifers at a lower price than last year, but he was happy with it anyway.

“The overall takeaway from sale was a great improvement in comparison to recent years,” Johns said in an email. “The overall setup and breakdown were vastly improved, much excitement about the cattle offered was acknowledged by many buyers and new potential buyers have already reached out wanting to be in attendance of next year’s sale. So all in all, I would say that the sale ran smoothly and both buyers and sellers showed up eager to do business.”

Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at

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