CUT KNIFE, Sask. — Good food and good fellowship are key ingredients that keep people coming back year after year for the Moving On Bull Sale at Carlrams Ranching near Cut Knife.
“We just enjoy the sale as being able to treat our neighbours once a year, even if they come for Randy’s good cooking. It’s a chance to socialize as much as do business,” said Cal Ramsay.
Randy Flicek, Ramsay’s son-in-law, has had the job of cooking beef on sale day since the auction went public five years ago. It’s a job he takes seriously, does well and folks relish.
“The difference between our sale and others is Randy’s prime rib,” Ramsay said with a smile.
“People come for miles just to have his prime rib. When you eat that, you’ll be the happiest man in the world.”
Cooking the noon dinner for 400 hungry people is no easy feat. Flicek and Ramsay estimate each person will eat between a third and half a pound of AA prime rib, which brought their total to 350 pounds this year.
Besides a homemade spice injection, Flicek’s secret ingredient is cooking “really slow and low.” He begins the process two days ahead of the sale using the family’s smoker. It’s a skill he honed while working for a local butcher shop years ago.
Members of the Hillsvale Hutterite Colony, who are longtime neigh-bours and friends, also pitch in to prepare the meal for sale day. Colony women serve up potatoes, salads, baked buns and deserts for the steady line of hungry visitors.
The sale barn will be full of visiting neighbours, chatting between bites.
“The Hutterite people do the rest of the meal for us, so it’s nice, it’s wonderful food. People enjoy that and the hospitality,” Ramsay said.
“It’s not a job when you’re having your friends over.”
Ramsay and wife Marilyn represent the fifth generation on the century-old mixed farm. Nearby land was homesteaded by Cal’s grandfather, who arrived from Prince Edward Island in 1910. The family’s descendants originally settled on the island after they were shipwrecked off its coast in 1770.
Three generations of Ramsays are now involved in the purebred registered Horned Hereford business. Son Carl, his wife, Dalynn, and children host the sale in their yard while daughter, Robin Flicek, husband Randy and their children farm near Neilburg, Sask.
Each year on sale day, Ramsay and other riders herd the 45 bulls from his yard three kilometres by road to Carl’s farm. He said nobody moves animals by horseback anymore, but it provides one last opportunity to study the years of work that go into raising bulls before they are sold.
“It’s kind of a pride because for (three kilometres) you get to look at the animals you built and designed….The product you’re selling now started three or four years ago when you went to a sale and bought a bull,” he said.
“So you have to know what the industry is looking for, four or five years down the road. You have to be ahead of your customers.”
This year’s sale brought bidders from across Western Canada, including six Hutterite colonies in Saskatchewan and Alberta, as well as online participants from across Canada, the United States and Australia.
Maintaining friendships and ex-tending hospitality are cornerstones that the family highly values. Family members credit the late Carl and Ruth Ramsay for instilling and exemplifying these values.
Carl, who bought a registered Prince Domino heifer in 1948, is remembered as a natural born salesperson.
“Grandma and Grandpa really started the tradition of taking care of people as best you can. They were really good host and hostess. I think that kind of got passed down,” said Robin Flicek. “I think the hospitality is the most special part of the sale.”
She said being a good neighbour and friend means working hard at building loyalty by being dependable, which her father takes seriously.
“Dad visits customers throughout the year and follows up and makes sure all the bulls are working. He travels a lot doing that,” she said.
“I think that’s where he gets his edge: repeat customers, just knowing that they are going to be well taken care of and that he is always fair. Loyalty does pay over the long term.… Having a connection for that long, that trust that’s never been broken, is kind of priceless.”