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At SunFed Ranch we often speak with pride about our families’ deep ranching roots, the importance of tradition, and the quality of the cattle that we are raising. These are all key factors and the foundation of SunFed Ranch. Last week, founding rancher Chris Donati attended an event that speaks to all of these – the Black Gold Bull Sale in Colusa, CA.

This was taking during the viewing portion of the sales. Ranchers are allowed to go into the bull pens to look at the bulls, to get a closer look and see how they move.

Ranchers are allowed to go into the bull pens to look at the bulls prior to the sale, to get a closer look and see how they move

Chris Donati's dad and brother, pictured here at the viewing of the bulls, are responsible for raising a third of the bulls sold in the Black Gold Sale.

Chris Donati’s brother Rocky is pictured on the right talking with a rancher about his bulls at the viewing of the bulls before the sale.

The bull sale takes place once a year and is put on by three family-owned cattle operations, including founding rancher Chris Donati’s family. Ranchers from all over California come to the sale to bid on some of the highest quality bulls in California. This year marked 20 years of tradition: auctioning off black angus bulls that keep getting better and better every year.

Chris’s family began raising bulls as part of a 4-H project when he was a kid. Along with his father and brother, they started with just seven cows. The family partnership continued to grow and this year 91 of the 136 bulls sold at the sale were Donati family bulls raised by Chris’s brother Rocky and his father Tom.

SunFed founding rancher Chris Donati and his father after all of the bulls sold

SunFed founding rancher Chris Donati and his father Tom Donati after all of the bulls sold

The event was clearly a family affair, with husbands, wives and children who will become the next generation of cattle ranchers, in attendance. There was a family style BBQ and a viewing of the bulls that also provided a social event for the ranchers to catch up with one another. Once everyone was full and had a chance to catch up, it was time to get down to business.The auctioneer began by highlighting each family and their bulls, talking about how he had been attending the sale for over 15 years and saying, “These are truly the highest quality of bulls in the state, and I have watched them get better and better every year”.  Flat screen TVs were set up indoors to show the bulls off to a room that was packed with cowboy hats and eager ranchers ready to be waved in an attempt to bid on their carefully selected bulls of choice. They did not want to head back to the ranch with empty trailers.


The bulls get to remain outside grazing in their pasture while they are auctioned off via a live video stream on the flat screens! This reduces stress on the animals, and still allows ranchers to see what they are purchasing. Who says ranchers aren’t high-tech?

If you’re reading this and don’t come from a ranching background you may be asking yourself, “Why is a bull sale such an important event?”

The bull sale is important to SunFed Ranch because we often talk with pride about the high quality cattle that we raise. That quality doesn’t happen by accident. We take special care in breeding our cattle to be the best. SunFed Ranch bulls are one half of that breeding equation. The bulls Chris’s family has raised for the last 20 years, and the knowledge they have on breeding bulls to be the best is a strong component of what makes SunFed Ranch cattle the highest quality. We are proud to be able to take part in the Donati family tradition.

Bulls at the sale went from $6,000 dollars all the way up to $15,000 dollars. Anyone who knows a cattle rancher knows that every dollar they spend is calculated and has a carefully thought out purpose. They don’t spend a chunk of change that large on one animal unless it’s going to substantially benefit their operation. Ranchers carefully study and research charts on the genetic backgrounds of the bulls, as well as camp out in the hot sun to assess each of the 136 bulls that were brought to the sale, studying in person their build and how they move.


The Bulls

bulls 2The top of the line genetics these bulls are raised for don’t happen by accident. It takes hard work, determination, research and a lot of patience to get the quality of bulls that people came from all over to purchase. Here are a few reasons why having the best quality bulls is important to a successful cattle ranching operation:

1) The usual rule of thumb on rangeland is to use one bull for every 25 cows. This means that for every bull put out to pasture, he is responsible for making sure up to 25 mother cows are bred with calves for the following year. This is why we take special measures to make sure that our bulls are the best so that we can breed the best cattle around! It helps having someone with a background like Chris’s family to have the knowledge and resources to do this.

2) The genetics of the bulls affect important factors like the birth weight of the calf, which is important to know for safe and easy birthing methods, as well as how the calves will grow. At SunFed, we take pride in raising the best quality of cattle, and having good bulls with good genetics is a key component of our success. Modern sciences have provided ranchers with charts and information on each bull, which gives us insight to all of these factors before we make a purchase.

3) The genetics of the bull can also affect the quality and taste of the meat, as well as how much time it takes to get the cow to reach maturity.

SunFed Ranch came home with a few Donati family bulls to add to our herd!

SunFed Ranch came home with a few Donati family bulls to add to our herd!

SunFed Ranch is proud to have attended, purchased bulls to add to our herd, and to have a Donati family member with so much background and knowledge to help us to raise the best quality of cattle around!

Learn more about the Black Gold Bull Sale by clicking here!