Feature: Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo favors dealing not riding this year

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The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeos (HLSR) this year did not begin with traditional mega-star entertainment lineup, giant carnival or bull-, steer- and horse-riding it boasts for 81 years, but with a cattle sale to benefit Texas ranchers.

On Wednesday, the HLSR, the world's largest live entertainment and livestock exhibition, kicked off with the 46th Annual All Breed Registered Range Bull Sale.

The auction of 87 mixed and pure-breed bulls drew several hundred ranchers. The sellers and buyers looking to replenish their herds made their deals at the arena, over telephone or, for the first time, over the Internet.

After the rapid-fire patter of the auctioneer, the first bull out of the chute and the top-ranked bull at the auction, a Hereford from the B&C Cattle Company, was sold to the highest bidder at 11,500 U.S. dollars.

"The sellers are purebred breeders, for the most part, and they are consigning bulls they think will be of interest to buyers who will put them into their own herds to produce a superior cattle herd," said Joel Cowley, the rodeo's executive director of agricultural exhibits.

Sellers and buyers, he said, are commercial cattle breeders from ranches in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and other states further east.

"The rodeo's very first show was held in 1932 as a cattle show with the purpose of promoting cattle in the Gulf Coast region," Cowley said.

The livestock show is still a very key part of the mission and purpose of the livestock show and rodeo to promote breeding, raising and marketing of better farm animals and produce, Cowley said, adding that "the other wonderful things we know and love today -- the entertainment, the carnival, the shopping, the rodeo -- came along later over time."

Any money taken in over what it takes to run the show goes to the rodeo's fund for educational purposes, primarily scholarships, Cowley said.

"This year, we have committed to giving over 24 million U.S. dollars to youth and education," said Cowley.

Murphey Moriarty, All Breed Sales Committee chairman, said the day was dedicated to selling the highest graded bulls to the highest bidders.

"We're going to sell commercial bulls to commercial buyers," he said.

The bulls sold then sire the cattle that end up in the meat department or contributing to the dairy shelves at grocery stores throughout the region, he said.

Jay Johnson has a 5,000-acre ranch in Happy, Texas, and planned to sell seven bulls for 3,000-4000 U.S. dollars each.

"I've come here every year," he said. "Not as long as some, but long enough."

Tom Dompier, owner of a 6,000-acre ranch with about 800 head of cattle near Richmond, Texas, said he came to the show to buy Angus bulls.

"We just tested our Angus bulls and a few turned up bad so they went to the sale barn, so I'm here to buy three or four," Dompier said.

Jim Sartwelle, Jr., who manages the bull sale, said Internet help him expand ranks of potential buyers this year.

"In the state of Texas and anywhere where people breed cattle, you deal with those who want to sell and those who want to buy," Sartwelle said, adding that "Now with the Internet, we've got people interested in Louisiana, Arkansas, Nebraska and even Illinois." Endi

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